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Ajak and Awut have both fled South Sudan’s war and now support eachother. Photo : Achuoth Deng / Trócaire


Friendships forged while fleeing war : The remarkable story of Awut and Ajak

Both families had to flee the awful violence of South Sudan’s war. Ajak lost her husband due to the fighting, and had to flee her home with her young children. She came to a village where she met Awut, who had also been forced to flee for her life. Despite having so little herself, Awut welcomed Ajak onto her small patch of land and now both families support each other to rebuild their lives.

Ajak and Awut have both fled South Sudan’s war and now support eachother. Photo : Achuoth Deng / Trócaire Ajak and Awut have both fled South Sudan’s war and now support eachother. Photo : Achuoth Deng / Trócaire

They fled war, then saved others : Awut’s story

Awut is working hard to rebuild her life after fleeing terrible violence in South Sudan. (Photo: Achuoth Deng / Trócaire)

“The experience was horrible. We suffered with fierce hunger and thirst”

Awut recalls the painful trek to escape terrible violence in South Sudan.

“My children’s feet were swollen and we were weak with exhaustion. We were fleeing for our lives.”

At last they reached a safer place. The village of Malek, where the people welcomed them. The chief of the area did what he could for Awut and gave her family a small patch of land.

But this is a heartbreakingly poor village. The war has left people with almost nothing. People here have to be resourceful as sometimes there is only wild fruits and greens to rely on.

As a widow caring for her own children and the orphan children of family members, starting out all over again was tough. But the love and support she received from people in Malek helped her begin to rebuild her life.

When Awut saw Ajak, another mother fleeing the violence with her children, arrive into Malek, she knew this was her chance to show someone the love that had been shown to her.

Awut welcomed Ajak and her children – and stayed by their sides after Ajak’s husband died from a war injury.

The two mothers forged a friendship, and toil tirelessly to make sure their beloved families aren’t lost completely. They try to stay strong.

But times are hard. They often struggle to come by the basics, such as proper shelter, clean water and healthcare. They try to stay strong for their families and for each other, but life can often feel like an uphill battle.

Years of war have taken nearly everything from their families and it’s not just. Please help struggling families like Awut and Ajak’s to survive and thrive.

Meet Nyibak:


Due to Covid, Nyibak hasn’t been able to go to school with her friend, Nyitit, who she misses a lot.

Although she is only 5 years of age, she knows that the world will one day move on from Covid. However, in South Sudan, there’s a high chance that Nyibak won’t be able to return to school at all.

All children, especially young girls who are at an even higher risk of falling behind, deserve the chance to receive an education no matter where they live of what gender they are.

With your help this Lent, we can help Nyibak, and many more little girls like her, get back to school so they can have the opportunity to play, learn and grow.

Amid poverty and loss, Friendship : Ajak’s Story

South Sudan’s war left Ajak a widow who is doing all she can to provide for her children despite the enormous challenges they face. Ajak is here with her beloved baby, Ngor (8 months). (Photo: Achuoth Deng / Trócaire)

Ajak is a widowed mother who is moving heaven and earth to provide for her family, despite the poverty and constant threat of violence that surrounds them in South Sudan. And she will never forget Awut, who became her friend and lifted her family up when they had nothing.

“On the first day when we came here, Awut settled us next to her and let me put up an emergency structure for my family.” Ajak’s gaze rests on a thin shelter that looks barely enough to hold back the wind and the rain. Still her eyes fill with gratitude. “It reminds me of those days,” she says.

Slowly Ajak tells you her story. How she lost her husband after he was shot in the war. How her family found themselves in this village. How fish from the lake kept her family alive in the days when they had no one.

Then Awut, who also had fled from the war, gave Ajak part of her land to cultivate. “She is dearly a friend, and I to her,” Ajak says of her bond with Awut. “When she cooks, she calls my children to eat with hers, and vice versa. We help each other at times of need.”

That need is constant. Ajak would like for all her children to attend school, but has no money for shoes or uniforms. Even with the two mothers sharing all they have, there is nowhere near enough.

Years of war have taken nearly everything from their families. They are living in fear and it’s not just.  Please help war-weary families like Ajak and Awut’s to survive and thrive.

“We share everything we have,” Awut says. “We have to show humility. As displaced people, it is good to join hands and work out ways to survive together. It is my desire for people to live in peace without conflict. Let’s live as one people and one world.”

Meet Malong:

At 14 years of age, Malong has had to experience things no child should have to.

When we spoke with him, he spoke enthusiastically about his hopes for the future. He wants to attend school, learn about the world, and have an opportunity to give himself and his family the chance of a brighter future.

Despite the enormous challenges he faces, Malong is resilient and determined.

With a twinkle in his eye, he says, “Please pass on my regards to the people of Ireland. I greet you all.”

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