By Priscillia, with help from Didier Nagifi Sademoke
My name is Priscillia, and I’m 12 years old. I came to Camp Bili in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with my mother and my siblings as a refugee from Central African Republic (CAR).
When we arrived here, we didn’t have much with us. But World Vision gave my mother a piece of land and some seeds. She grew cassava, maize, peanuts and beans. After the first harvest, she was able to provide for us, and buy us uniforms and other school supplies so that my siblings and I could go to school. This field has become our most important resource.
Priscillia, with her mother and four siblings, came to Camp Bili in DRC as refugees from CAR. Photo: Didier Nagifi Sademoke
Speaking up for child protection
Life in the camp is hard, especially for us children. Child abuse and severe corporal punishment are a big problem. Through World Vision, I was trained as a child protection advocate. Equipped with knowledge of gender-based violence and child protection, I began to help my friends avoid risky behaviour that could harm them.
Unfortunately, I learned some of my friends had already experienced abuse, and they were afraid to speak up. I encouraged them to report it to their parents so that they could receive proper care and so that their abusers could be prosecuted.
It makes me sad to see my friends, girls my age, leaving school because they became pregnant after being raped. It angers me and gives me the courage to talk about child protection in the camp.
In our camp corporal punishment is often a parents' first choice to discipline their children.
Instead, I ask parents to first talk to their children. I advise them to explain what the child has done wrong and state the behaviour change they must adopt. Establishing dialogue in the family makes children feel safe and respected and makes them more willing to confide in their parents. The training has helped me make a difference.
For example, one day, as I was walking around the camp, I saw Jacqueline, a mother I knew well, beating her son. I asked her, "Why do you hit your child?" And she replied that he had stolen from a neighbour. I asked her, "Have you tried to understand why he did this?" She bowed her head, and we talked about the harms of corporal punishment and other possibilities for discipline.
Now Jacqueline is happy with her son, and she proudly testifies, "Based on Priscillia's advice on child protection, I no longer physically punish my children, but I take time to dialogue with them and help them understand what was wrong. There is a big change. My children no longer steal."
When I see such a change happening in this refugee community, it gives me the courage to continue to raise awareness so that this change affects everyone.
The coronavirus disease is the newest crisis stealing our childhood. My family and I were concerned when it was described as a disease that kills rich and poor alike, across all continents without distinction of race, social class or age.
For us here at the camp, this disease increases our vulnerability as we find ourselves closed in on ourselves, isolated. Right now, we are keeping a physical distance from our neighbours to avoid getting infected. Our life is no longer the same, our childhood is stifled because schools and churches are closed. We can no longer meet our friends, play with children, or pray together.
We're like prisoners. We don't know when things will return to normal.
Priscillia is using her advocacy training to share coronavirus prevention messages with her friends and neighbours in Camp Bili, DRC. Photo: Didier Nagifi Sademoke
As part of the fight against COVID-19, World Vision has made us aware of various prevention measures. Now I use my training as a child protection advocate to share those prevention messages with my friends in the camp and my family, encouraging them to respect the rules of hygiene and physical distancing to limit the spread of the virus.
My wish for the future
My wish is to see all children study and have a bright future. My parents didn't study; they didn’t have the means. I want to progress in my studies. My favorite subject is mathematics, and I dream of becoming a banker one day, so that I can help my parents, my family and all the children who are suffering in refugee camps.
I thank World Vision for training me as a child protection advocate and coronavirus prevention advocate. I am very proud when I see people change their behavior based on my advice.
I trust and pray that my God will help us overcome COVID-19, the school will open, and all activities will resume.
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