South Sudanese mom becomes foster parent to siblings in Gambella’s refugee camp

Bethany provides psychosocial and mental health support services for South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella refugee camps.

April 01, 2020

Samiyah*, a single mom of three, fled her home country of South Sudan because of conflict and war. Samiyah and her children traveled long distances on foot until they reached Gambella, a region in Ethiopia with refugee camps. Samiyah and her children—among thousands of other South Sudanese refugees—took their place in a line of displaced people looking for a home.

Despite the lack of essentials like food, clothing, and living space, Samiyah eventually brought three more children, a sibling group, into her care when their mother decided to leave the camp and return to South Sudan.

For four years, Samiyah has cared for the children as a foster parent, committed to their well-being. But she felt something was missing from her relationship with the siblings—and she knew she needed help filling the gap. Every day, Samiyah faced difficulties until she learned about Bethany’s trauma-informed parenting group. She started attending the group training and learned how to cope with her stress, support the children, and build stronger bonds in safe, loving ways.

“Being a foster parent has been a challenging responsibility,” Samiyah said. “I was never exposed to any knowledge of how to take care of children while I was in South Sudan.”

Caring for vulnerable children is an accepted practice—and culturally inherited—in the community where Samiyah lives. But most families are struggling for their means of survival and don’t feel equipped to become foster parents. That’s why we offer refugee programs—like trauma-focused mental health support and foster parent recruitment, as well as access to basic needs—around the world.

After a few months of attending trainings, Samiyah is feeling better and confident. She feels empowered with the necessary tools to manage her stress and build healthy relationships with each of her children. She’s no longer overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring and providing for her children. Instead of being worried and frustrated, her children have become a source of happiness.

Samiyah openly discusses her challenges, and said the training helped her to understand the children’s feelings of fear of separation. She’s learned new ways to create a safe environment and good communication—showing support to her children where it’s needed. Now, Samiyah better understands the impact of trauma and how it affects her children.

Samiyah’s story demonstrates the tremendous need for refugee foster parents, psycho-social support and education, and a better environment for unaccompanied and separated children.

“Being taught about parenting is one of the precious privileges that I got from [Bethany] and this refugee camp,” Samiyah said. “I appreciate Bethany and would like to thank them for being concerned about children and creating much needed awareness through organized trainings. It’s a profound and essential step to create healthy development and safe environments for refugee children.”

*Name changed to protect identity.

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