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A centre for change

22 February 2023, Impact of Our Work, Climate

Nothing can stop Ayen’s endless ambition  

In a remote community in the Akobo West region of South Sudan, 15-year-old Ayen* interlocks her fingers as she focuses on the ball hurtling towards her. 

“The thing I like most about the Child Friendly Space is that it provides us with a space to play volleyball,”  says Ayen, “I play at number 5 – that is at the centre and where the ball lands first.” 

Ayen playing centre in volleyball at a Save the Children Child Friendly Space in South Sudan.

The Akobo West region has been gripped by the impacts of climate change, conflict and hunger. A succession of floods – fuelled by the changing climate – has destroyed crops and swept away homes, including Ayen’s.  

“It was in the evening when we saw heavy clouds … At night we were surprised by the water that entered our house … The following day, we tried to remove the water … but we did not manage … After that, the house collapsed,” she says. 

Save the Children has been working with international and local partners to provide critical health, nutrition and protection services to the most at-risk children in the region. These services include Child Friendly Spaces, like the one Ayen attends, as well as stabilisation centres for children suffering from malnutrition. 

A full recovery after a quick response

When Ayen’s nine-month-old sister Nyajuba began to show symptoms of malnutrition, she was quick to get her to the local Save the Children stabilisation centre. 

“Nyajuba had vomiting and diarrhoea … she had really reduced weight and her skin had rashes,” Ayen says. 

At the centre Nyajuba was able to receive the treatment she needed and is on her way to making a full recovery. “She is now able to play,” says Ayen, “she is not on the bed like the way she used to be … I was very happy when she recovered.” 

Ayen and her sister Nyajuba, who received treatment for malnutrition, outside their home. 

The transformative power of education

The challenges that Ayen has faced have not deterred her, nor inhibited her ambition. She attends an adolescents’ group where she learns about child marriage, among other things. 

Many girls in her community are forced into marriage. Ayen believes that education is the key to ending such gender discrimination and helping her community.

Ayen attends an adolescents’ group where they learn about issues like child marriage and gender-based violence. 

If you are a girl, don’t discourage yourself, saying that since you are a lady in the future you will only be doing kitchen work. Education is the only thing that can bring together ladies and men.

15-year-old Ayen

“Now that education is here, let’s make sure that we all get educated - men, women and girls - to enable us to develop our land like other countries.

“I would like to be a doctor once I complete my studies,”
says Ayen. 

For now, she is committed to finishing her studies, taking care of her sister and leading her volleyball team to victory. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Photos: Esther Mbabazi / Save the Children.

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