The first things you notice about 17-year-old Grace* are her bright and ready smile and the pretty little rock garden she has built around a tree in the yard. When you hear her story, you wonder how she accomplished either.
Grace is one of more than 838,000 people who have fled civil war in South Sudan since the conflict broke out in December 2013.
Grace lived with her father in the town of Goli. When the war broke out, they ran and hid in the bush to avoid being killed in the crossfire. With no food and hunger gnawing at them, Grace’s father went to look for something to eat. He never came back. Grace found his body at the side of the road where he had been shot in the head.
“I cleaned the blood off his body and cried. I took my shirt and tied it around his head because it was swollen. His body was starting to get rotten and I went and called neighbors,” Grace recalls through tears. “The men came and dug a hole to bury my dad.”
Grace moved in with neighbors after her father’s death. They had a garden that they maintained some distance from the house. Grace would stay home and prepare meals for them in an outdoor kitchen and take to them as they worked.
One day when she was cooking, she saw people coming. She thought it was just the neighbors. By the time she realized who it was, it was too late. “One of the men came and stood in front of me saying, ‘If you shout we will shoot you,’” Grace says.