Remembering our Patron – using books to get back home
His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was our Patron for 55 years. He was a great reader who believed in the power of books, so this week we are remembering him by sharing stories of people who used books to change their lives.
Mayol, 22, fled his village in South Sudan in 2013 to escape civil war. He now lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. He attends Kakuma Secondary School where, together with a friend, he runs the school library, filled with books from Book Aid International. Mayol sees education and books as a means to change his life for the better and one day return to South Sudan. This is his story:
“I was born in South Sudan in 1995, but there was a war in 2005 and my father was killed. After that, I lived with my mother but in March 2013, war arrived again in our village at night. We heard the sound of the bullets buzzing around people and killing was everywhere. So I ran away and my mum ran too.
I spent two days walking in the forest alone. I met a Sudanese soldier and he said ‘Where are you going?’ and I said ‘I don’t know where I am going. I just ran and lost my mum.’ So he took me to the UN and they brought me here, to Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now I am a refugee. Up to now, my mum doesn’t know where I am. I don’t know, maybe she was killed. She was running with the small kids – but I don’t know what happened to them.
The life here in Kakuma is very hard – the camp is very overpopulated and we only receive three kilos of rations a month, but we just remain here in the camp because we have nowhere to go and we have no right to move away. We appreciate the UN agency because it has protected our lives. If it was not there, maybe we could have been killed. So because of this kindness we are here.
But I do not have very many opportunities unless I do my best, finish school and perform very well – that’s when you find a job and you earn your living yourself. Here in the camp there are so many challenges that are facing us – especially on the topic of the books. One textbook is given to 10 students – and my school is comprised of 3,000 students.
Myself and my friend Salid have been selected to be in charge of the library here at our school. The library is too small for all the pupils to use the books at one time, so we give out the books and after one week we collect them and give them to another class. The books that we have in the library – they’re good but we need more! Especially revision books and commercial books so that you can make a business – and novels! There are only a few and when we give them out, they are not enough, they are so useful to have. To learn English, students need to read enough books – a lot of novels. So that when he reads novels widely, he can improve his English grammar – things will be simple.
If we don’t have books in school it will bring challenges. Some of the books, like novels, give us the knowledge to improve our English, while others – such as the revision books – give us a guideline to understand things easily. Therefore when we don’t have such books, it brings weakness to ourselves. If we end up with a poor grade it will affect us for the rest of our lives. Wherever you go, you will not get a job because you have weak grades. You will never work in the office. When you have enough revision books and novels, you can at least try your best to utilise them so you can perform well in all your subjects.
The thing that makes me stay here and keep going is that I believe in myself.
If God keeps me alive I can study well and do the best that I can to change my life. Now I have the opportunity to study for free, so I need to utilise this chance that God gave me so that I can change this life and so that when I go back to Sudan, I can bring peace. I must work hard so that I can fulfil that promise that I made to Sudan.
We are proud to have provided many of the books that fill Mayol’s school library via our partner Windle Trust Kenya. We believe that everyone should have access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives, whatever their circumstances.