HOCW is a community; therefore, it is best described by those who contribute to it.
Célèbre’s story begins in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He had gotten his BA in law at Kinshasa University at the time the conflict started. Pervasive feelings of hopelessness and insecurity overwhelmed him, and after losing his father, brother, and sister, he fled to Uganda in 2010. Six months after he registered as an asylum seeker in Uganda, he came to HOCW because another refugee he met in church had recommended it. While he had been educated, he struggled to communicate, making it difficult to find employment. At HOCW, he learned English. “The trainings, internship opportunities, and the incredible people at HOCW pulled me out of my previous life situation.” Realizing he was not alone in his suffering, he was able to look towards a brighter future, “It was a dark time. I was confused, but HOCW showed me the way forward, shaping who I am today. I am very grateful for that.” The community in which Célèbre came into at HOCW became his family. Following his graduation from HOCW courses, he began to give back to the organization. “I wanted to give back what I had received. I wanted to help people believe in life again.” Célèbre’s time at HOCW allowed him to get back on his feet and on to the road ahead. Since then, he has married, had two children, and moved back to the Congo as the DRC Country Human Resources Manager for an international aid organization based in the United States. At the end of his story, he pulled out a photo of his family: “This proves how happy I am.”
“In South Sudan, you are born into war. You grow up in war. All you ever know is war.” The Second Sudanese Civil War—largely a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War during which the southern region fought for autonomy—orphaned 14 year-old Ayen in 2004. With her siblings, she found refuge in a church in Khartoum, Sudan, and through the church, she was able to attend school. There were many people staying there, accentuating the rift between the Christian and Muslim communities in Khartoum. After her church was attacked in 2005, some of the nuns sent her and a few other girls to Egypt. She was working as a live-in housemaid in addition to schooling, but her employer treated her very poorly. After a year, she applied for refugee status and resettlement. During the time her papers were being processed, she moved to a refugee camp in Cairo. Similar to her experience in Khartoum, the refugee presence fostered hatred and resentment, and after two months, the camp was attacked. Without documentation or a safe place to go, she decided to follow a recommendation from another refugee in the camp: pay to be smuggled across the border to Israel. In 2007, she came to Israel, where she was welcomed. The government set her up with housing and employment as a housekeeper in a hotel. “In Israel,” she explained, “things were good because I had escaped violence and I had work. I got married and had three children. My life was happy.” Because she had come to the country without official UN refugee identification, when South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, she and her family were given a year by the Israeli government to return to South Sudan. Upon returning to South Sudan, the country felt foreign to Ayen. She and her husband did not understand the country anymore. Their lack of knowledge around the South Sudanese economy became apparent to Ayen when they invested the little money they had and lost it. Her children, also unused to the South Sudanese environment, suffered from illness and starvation. The poor infrastructure drove Ayen to seek health care for her children in Uganda in 2013. She rented a house in Ndejje and heard about HOCW through a South Sudanese friend. He introduced her to Bolingo, the executive director, who encouraged her to continue her education. She started attending English, business, and computer classes while her children recovered. She and her children rejoined her husband in South Sudan, but after the current war broke out in 2014, they fled back to Ndejje. Hoping to help support his family, her husband remained in South Sudan to continue running the shop he had opened. She has not spoken to him since 2015 and believes he was arrested by one of the militias before being coerced into becoming a soldier. Back in Ndejje, she finished the classes she was taking at HOCW before joining the staff in 2015 as a Level I English Teacher and counselor trained in Narrative Exposure Therapy. HOCW brought stability to her life; she was able to resume her education, get a job, and send her children to school. “HOCW gave me responsibility, responsibility over myself, my own home, my family, and my students. As a refugee, your sense of worth is completely diminished. Becoming dependable after being dependent on others for so long is incredibly empowering. It gives me strength.” Her favorite part about working at HOCW is how people coexist. “The conflict in South Sudan exists stems from disputes between tribes. In my classes, there are people of different tribes and nationalities, yet they embrace each other as classmates, friends, and people they support, encourage, and love.” HOCW is her launch pad. She wants the best for her children, and as for herself, she aspires to get her bachelor’s degree and work as a Human Resources Manager.
"I’m Gach. I’m from South Sudan. I’m a refugee in Uganda. I came here in 2013 after a conflict in my home country. I’m a student at HOCW. I’m in level 4 English. I started a computer course. Now, I’ve learned to speak English. I’m here with a few cousins, including Changkuoth. I would like to go to Ethiopia where my father is, but I have no means of transportation. My father is with two sisters and one brother. My wife and daughter are there too. I have heard from other refugees that they are OK, but there is no network where they are. If I had the opportunity of going abroad, I would get a job and support my family and continue my studies. But there are no opportunities of going abroad, and so that is why I want to go to Ethiopia. It’s better for me to be with my family since I’m doing nothing useful here. When you’re the first born, you’re responsible for guiding your family. It may take a long time for peace to come to South Sudan. The conflict began in 2013 during the elections. The people in power killed many people, including one tribe called Nuer. This tribe opposed Kiir. There was peace in 2015. The rebel leader came in 2016. Then there was another war, beginning July 8, 2016. Now the rebel leader has gone to the bush again and the fighting continues. Most places have been destroyed. The people have gone to the neighboring countries: Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo. I’m now living in Etebbe Seguku. I’m with my sister-in-law. I was in a camp, but I came here to study. She comes here to study as well. Her husband works in South Sudan. He comes to visit every 3-4 months. They have two children who go to school in Uganda."