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Beyond Borders: Love and Hope Flourishes In Desperate Times

Beyond Borders: Love and Hope Flourishes In Desperate Times

Thirty-nine year old Kuey Koak Deng from South Sudan was studying at a local college in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when he met 30-year old Alim Sayaai Kedan.

It was not long after their first meeting that Kuey asked for Alim’s hand in marriage.

In 2008, the couple moved to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to begin their new life together. However, their happiness was short-lived when fighting broke out in the capital in December 2013.

“We lost everything,” said Kuey. “Our house was looted and destroyed. It was horrible. We came with only the clothes on our backs and our children.”

At the time, the couple had two children. Two years ago, they welcomed twins, a boy and girl, born at the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site next to the United Nations base in Juba.   

Speaking about life at the PoC site, Alim, originally from Ethiopia, said that she feels accepted by all the people around her.

“Even when I was living outside in our village, the people were very kind and welcomed me. I never felt like an outsider. I feel like a South Sudanese. I am a South Sudanese,” she stresses.

Her twin son, sporting an impressive curly mohawk, and twin daughter, wearing an immaculate white and turquoise dress, cling to their mother.

“I am grateful that two of my eldest children aged five and ten, can still go to school here at the PoC site and lead a fairly normal life,” she says.

In order to care for their family, Kuey and Alim, run a small shop at the PoC site which is owned by their friend. They receive a commission on every sale they make.

Alim said that with 300 South Sudanese Pounds, about US $2, she buys 2kg of flour to make 40 pieces of kisra, a South Sudanese flat bread, which she sells for 15 SSP a piece. She said she usually gives one piece to each of her children after making the bread.

While life inside the PoC site is difficult, she says: “I am lucky that my family and I survived the attacks. Some of our neighbours were not as lucky as they were killed during the attacks.”

Alim smiles as she talks about the prospect of moving back to her home outside the PoC.

“I want to go back to our home. I am hopeful that the fighting will end and we will live as one in a peaceful South Sudan.”