“This is the first time in a year that I feel like a human being. The whole of last year, we were congested in a small hut with one of my relatives with over 10 people. Now with our own house, my children and I can find enough space for ourselves. My youngest daughter keeps saying, Mama our house is beautiful, yes our house, we now own a home!”
Mary (name of fantasy to protect the person’s identity) is an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) from Kotobi in Mundri West. She is 49 years old and a mother of six children - four girls, two boys. Two of her daughters are living with their husbands, also IDPs in the same area, though living in a camp. For the past 18 months Mary had been living under the care of a relative with her 4 children and 2 grandchildren, in two small congested rooms that are housing over ten members.
To support her family and the host, Mary did all sorts of casual work, including brick-laying. She also started a small business of selling local bread and tea on the roadside where she raises small money to buy food, clothes and other basic necessities for her children. “The money is not enough to take them to school but I will work hard (so) probably next year they can begin”.
During the Western Equatoria clashes of 2016/17, Mary and other people like her fled to Mundri town in search for safety. For some IDPs like Mary who had relatives in Mundri was easy to settle down and adapt, while many others ended up in camps and collective centers as the only option. “Life was very hard in Mundri, as we were over ten families in one small hut. After a horrible year, we decided to return to Kotobi but were welcomed by an empty ground with no house and my gardens had been destroyed,” Mary said. Once again Mary was homeless and hopeless and with the tension still high in the area, she decided to walk back together with her family and to adapt to the situation in Mundri town. One of her priority needs when LCED reached the field was to have an independent shelter in order not to be a burden to her host. “I did not know how I could provide myself with shelter since I had no money nor land”, narrates Mary.
At the end of 2018, Mary’s household was registered by LCED staff and volunteers as beneficiary for emergency shelter assistance. “This was a dream to me! I kept thinking this was a joke and somehow encouraging myself that God wants to remember the poor me at last. However, I shared the news with my host who allocated me a plot of land to put my house just in case”.
In early January 2019, this dream came to be true! Mary received cash vouchers in order to be able to purchase poles and grass to construct her new home. “Since I was already doing casual work that included brick-laying, I encouraged my fellow women to utilize this opportunity and make lasting and proper shelter structures”. In a group of five (LCED encouraged the project beneficiaries to support each other in groups), Mary and other women made bricks for each shelter and the LCED staff embarked on construction of their dream houses. By the end of February 2019, Mary’s group had completed their houses and is currently living their dream. “I will never forget the day I slept in my own shelter. I could not sleep. We all slept like babies that first night and my 8 year old son asked me if I was as happy as he was!” said Mary.
“Thank you Jesus through LCED for your help, my children now can say our house. My family is happy again, and this had not happened in a long, long time. I am also happy because I encouraged many women like me to make better houses rather than sleeping in those plastic sheets. With this house, we feel we are part of Hai Faki community because no one can recognize that this house belongs to an IDP unlike with plastic sheets!”
LCED project staff reflects on the assistance provided to displaced families, “I feel so happy when I see these people happy. When we were starting this, we thought it would be a ‘steep mountain’ to climb especially when we encouraged the group-work approach, but look! it’s now one big lesson learned and our subsequent interventions will adopt the same approach. Secondly, we now feel using the cash-based modality in providing shelter assistance in market functional areas. It is also high time we shifted from emergency to transitional shelter assistance and also embed the livelihood component for sustainability of our interventions.” LCED, M&E Officer.
Prepared by: Sherrie Lilian (LCED M&E Officer)