South Sudan Refugee: Suddenly a Single Mom

South Sudan Refugee: Suddenly a Single Mom

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It was September 2016 when the war finally spread to Joyce’s village. She watched morning to night as massive groups of people were on the move to Uganda in search of safety. Joyce didn’t want to leave her home and her life, but she grew more and more fearful for her children’s safety and future.

“When the soldiers started coming into our villages and killing people, we finally had to leave,” Joyce says.

Her husband stayed behind to protect their home, as she and her three children departed for Uganda. Joyce was terrified to leave her husband behind, but she prayed the entire journey.

“After we safely reached the border of Uganda, all I could do was thank God,” Joyce says.

Although relieved to be safe from gunshots, Joyce found herself suddenly with the sole burden of providing for her children. In South Sudan, she had been a stay-at-home mom while her husband had a good job with an aid agency that provided for the family. With the help of CARE, Joyce joined a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) and started a business making and selling embroidered bed sheets.

“The market in the settlement is not very active, so the profit is low. But I am thankful for it, because it helps provide us little money for more food,” Joyce says.

There are 40 members in Joyce’s VSLA who meet weekly to save money as a group. CARE helps launch the groups with start-up funding opportunities and provides business training, but the groups are completely self-managed by the members. Members pool their savings and take loans from the savings pool to invest in small businesses and pay family expenses. The loans are then paid back with interest, which is shared among the members.

Joyce says the group has become like a family. Most of them are now single moms who all fled to Uganda in September of last year when the war spread to their villages in Central Equatoria state. CARE also provides the group with access to healthcare, family planning services and protection and prevention services for sexual, physical and emotional violence in the community.

“It’s so traumatizing all that has happened in our country. Our group is like a support system. When we remember our experiences in South Sudan or are struggling to meet needs in Uganda, we help each other,” Joyce says.

“Our biggest hope now is for our children to have better education and peace in our country. If there’s peace, we will go back home." 

Joyce, a single mother who fled violence in South Sudan for Uganda, was able to start a business to support her family through the local VSLA. CREDIT: Peter Caton/CARE USA