It’s hard to imagine how a 12-year-old girl, forced to flee her home, after losing her family to conflict, can speak with courage and drive to relieve the suffering of others. It is with such clear faith in humanity that Eva explains how she came to live in a refugee camp, and her aspirations of becoming a doctor.
“We were living in a good situation,” she recalls of her past life. Eva lived with her father, mother and brothers and attended classes in Grade 1.
“When the war wasn’t happening, life was good…we could get what we needed, and we got along well with our neighbours,” she explains.
But three years ago, her father, mother and 14-year-old brother were killed when armed forces attacked her village.
Eva ran away to escape the fighting, walking for six days later. A woman saw her walking alone and offered to help her. She gave Eva some money for the journey, as well as shoes and clothes.
When Eva crossed the border to a refugee transit centre, she received shelter, food, water, sanitary materials, access to medical care and nutritional support. Eva is now in Grade 2 in a school supported by UNHCR and its partners. She likes studying English, mathematics, science and Nuer. But her dream is to become a doctor.
Amid the tragedy and sadness she has endured, Eva remains focused on building a better future for herself and for others. She is concerned not only with her own well-being, but also wants to ensure that her friends have an equal opportunity to reach their goals.
“Every human being wants to do their best” she says. “I go to school, I have what I need, and I like to make sure that other children like me have what they need as well.”
With her world turned upside down, Eva has retained incredible poise and grace. She is a natural caregiver, an advocate for change, a born healer.
However, fulfilling these needs and aspirations is increasingly difficult. With at least 70 percent of the population in the refugee camp she lives in Ethiopia, under the age of 18 – a total of more than 52,000 young refugees – children like Eva face many educational challenges.
There is currently no secondary school, and the primary school is overburdened. The student to teacher ratio is extremely high – roughly 106 students per teacher – and underfunding means that accessing textbooks can be nearly impossible.
With thanks to UNHCR supporters, Eva is safe and is able to start rebuilding her life. However, without efforts to improve the quality of education, Eva’s dream of healing suffering will remain just one of the many hopes and aspirations that float around the under resourced classrooms.