Andrea raises plight of refugee teenagers in Uganda

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The desperate plight of children at a refugee camp in Uganda has moved a south Derry woman to raise funds to improve their quality of life.

Andrea Givans helped at a nursery school in the Bidibidi Camp, Arua, near the South Sudan border, last year and provided them with school books.

“There was one toilet or latrine in the camp and we were able to build another two,” said the mother-of-two from outside Ballyronan.

She stayed for 10 weeks in the African country and it has changed the way she looks at life.

Now she is planning to return on November 26 for two weeks in a personal trip to see two of the girls she sponsored graduate from school and to “gather facts” about setting up an orphanage.

Andrea, a member Ballinderry Church of Ireland, became a STEP volunteer in the diocese of Madi West Nile for the Church Mission Society of Ireland.

As a qualified cook she spent a lot of her time teaching cooking skills to young women in a place where kitchens don’t exist.

But her work was not all to do with cooking. On one occasion she had to help deliver a calf in the camp! She also managed to put in place a system for purifying water.

Despite having concerns, including the possibility of being kidnapped, Andrea said she had to have trust that God was leading her. Her work in Uganda made her “feel complete” for the first time since her parents died.

After the deaths of her father at the age of 52, some 27 years ago, and her mother just six years ago, she had felt restless no matter what she did at home.

Before going to Africa she decided that she wanted to “stripe back everything” and live like the culture of the people in the camp: a basic diet, cold shower from a single hose each morning and, of course, making use of the latrines.

Her upcoming visit to Arua will be a surprise for the two girls who are not expecting to see her.

In the meantime, she has been doing some fund raising , with the help of neighbours and businesses in Cookstown who kindly contributed towards raffles.

She has also GofundMe page to help toward work of sponsoring a child at the nursery school purchasing teaching equipment and school books.

“Any contribution would be gladly received and will be donated towards the work in Arua,” she said.

Andrea says her husband Colin and children Julie and Andrew have been very supportive.