Photo credit: Alex Buisse
At 84 years old, Nyadet is one of the oldest refugees living in Dadaab refugee camps. After surviving years of conflict in her country, she fled South Sudan in 2013. She found out three months after her arrival that her granddaughter whom she had never met was also living in the same refugee camp. “When we met for the first time, it was wonderful and we were both so happy we cried the whole day.”
Her granddaughter, Rebecca, is one of a handful of girls training at Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Nairobi as part of a program to train elite refugee athletes for international competitions, including the Olympics.
“When the civil war started, Sudan separated and the mother and father of Rebecca moved to Ethiopia, which is where Rebecca was born. People began to go back to Sudan, but the tension between North and South Sudan caused another war to breakout, during which Rebecca’s father was killed. After he was killed, another tribe attacked their village, causing Rebecca to run away.”
Born in 1932, Nyadet had lived her whole life in Sudan. She has six children, but today is not sure where any of them are now and if they are still alive. “During the time I grew up, the culture didn’t allow women to go to school. Now, culture knows education is important. Instead of going to school, we were taking care of the cattle. Once the war broke out, we lost everything.”
Nyadet holds great hope for Rebecca to improve the lives of those in her family. “I hope she can finish school and what she is doing now, then she can have a bright future. I hope she also looks for the other children in the family because we don’t know where they are now.”
While Nyadet did not have the opportunity to go to school or play sports, her understanding and support for Rebecca’s endeavors in education and sport are steadfast. “Sports are good for girls. Before, the country would not allow it, but now what a man can do, a girl can too. If they can make it to the professional level, you know you’ll have a bright future.
We were very happy for her to have this opportunity to make it and continue her education. I was very happy and thanked God for giving Rebecca this chance.
The opportunity is not for Rebecca alone. If she makes it to the higher levels she will be okay. Now that she has this opportunity, she needs to work hard to succeed.”
This story was told to Erin Hayba.
Alex Buisse, Erin Hayba and AISTS are currently following the story of the Olympic team of Refugee Athletes from Kenya to Rio and back. See more here.