Books for a better life
Jocknus is a staff member at TPO, an organisation that works to offer support to refugees arriving in Uganda. Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, with most arrivals coming from South Sudan, the Congo, Rwanda and Somalia. Jocknus told us of the difficulties refugees face in their home countries and the power books have to restore hope for a brighter future.
“In the Adjumani and Yumbe settlements in Uganda, we put Book Aid International books in child-friendly spaces, primary schools for children to come and read. We put books in the libraries, train teachers in library management and how to guide children to read those books. The teachers do the book-keeping, making sure when a child takes a book, they record it and trace it.
These books are helping to address some issues for children. Many have gone through different situations and challenges, so these books help them progress and help them take away their stresses. Before they came to Uganda, these children were in South Sudan, where during the war they may have seen their parents killed in their presence. They may have seen a lot of things that traumatise them. You can imagine, you are there having supper with your parents and the rebels or the soldiers just come, and grab your father or mother and kill them in your presence. That is the situation that they went through before they came here.
Many of the refugees were beaten by the rebels during their time in Sudan, and they walked to Uganda. It’s difficult for them.
They went through a hard situation before they arrived in Uganda and life may not be easy for them. So that’s why the books help them.
They try to reopen their minds, can help them reflect on their life situations, build their happiness and re-organise their minds, so that they can forget all that they went through before they came to Uganda.
Most books have stories that relate to the problems that they have. For example, someone in a book faced challenges during his childhood – he was brought up, he went through this, and now he is a doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Uganda. It builds your resilience, it helps you to relate to your own situations, and still not lose hope. It gives you hope that you will also be able to reach there.
Books help restore hope for them.
In relation to education, these books are helping them to improve their reading skills and knowing the correct spelling of the words. Most of the children, both at primary schools and at the child-friendly spaces are able to read frequently, so it has helped them to build on and improve their skills and their understanding of language, especially English.
The books also help them to interact with other children. Bringing them together helps them to learn, play, share with others, be friendly with others and it gives them a protective space. When their parents are looking for food to eat in the evening, they take an opportunity to come to the child-friendly space under the guidance of a caregiver, so that the parents can do their work free and knowing that the children are being looked at by another old person in a safer place. So the books have helped a lot.
As children play, they tend to forget all the things that they went through. It tends to make their minds relax and think differently.
Life is a journey with many challenges before you reach where you are going. Our hope for the future is to help the children realise their dreams and help them work to make sure they can achieve them.
Ask them about their dreams and many will tell you, “I want to become a pilot”, “I want to become a nurse”, “I want to become a teacher.” So we tell them “now, if you want to become a nurse, if you want to become a driver, if you want to become a teacher, this is how you should go! Do this, read your books and go to school and you will be able to achieve your dream.”
We need support, there are so many refugee settlements in Uganda, we want to extend our support to other refugee settlements so that we can help the children because they all went through the same situation before they arrived in Uganda.”
Our projects with partners like TPO are only possible through the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery. We would like to thank players for their support.
Please note all images were taken pre-Covid-19.