Meet Michael. He is a project manager helping young people from South Sudan turn away from violence and their history as child soldiers towards jobs that transform their lives.
“We can’t count on past generations. The only people we have left are the young.”
Save the Children project manager, Michael, knows that the teenagers at a Save the Children-supported vocational training facility in South Sudan are the future of their country.
They may have seen family members killed, fought as child soldiers and had little education, but, in a country that is only 8 years old and ravaged by civil war, it is they who will make it thrive.
Michael manages the Activity Centre and Peace Club, an area of fenced-off dusty land with a handful of indoor and outdoor workshops, where tutors teach carpentry, IT, agricultural skills, hairdressing and more.
Michael has seen dozens of his trainees bloom. One orphan, whose mother Michael drove to hospital as she was dying, learnt masonry and was able to provide for himself and two younger sisters. A fellow masonry student built his own home and is now a trainer.
Another boy was living on the streets and covered in wounds when he came to the centre. Staff taught him welding and he’s become one of the most skilled workers in a local company.
“He was completely hopeless,” says Michael. “But now he’s able to feed himself, his health has improved, and he’s well dressed.”
Michael suffers for his work, spending ten weeks at a time away from his family in Kenya. At one stage, the compound where Michael was staying was attacked by an armed group and he had to flee from the gun fire.
Later, a volatile student, who didn’t like being disciplined in class, opened fire at him. “Thankfully, he wasn’t a sharp shooter,” Michael smiles.
But he never loses motivation. “This place is part and parcel of my life. I see young people move from desperation to a bright outlook.
The centre’s achievements also belong to Save the Children supporters, he adds. “They give money to people they don’t even know – who will give nothing in return. If we are heroes, they are, too.”