Lucy began stitching placemats with us 18 years ago as a devastated Sudanese refugee. Read her story of loss, reconciliation, and a beautiful future
"The worst memory that I can remember is the time when we were still in Juba, says Lucy in a UNHCR video several years ago. "The rebels were shelling (using explosives) the town. And, at the moment, if it felt like it cut everything that is around. I’ve seen a woman who was pregnant and this particle just cut her into pieces." Lucy left Juba, Sudan (now South Sudan) in 1992 and fled to Kenya." It was so painful to leave my country because I didn’t know where I was going. It was very difficult to get to a place where I don't know the language. There is nobody who is greeting you. In Sudan, if we met with anybody on the way, they greet you.But...in Kenya it was a bit different."
Watch Lucy's poignant interview with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Her story was told to raise awareness about the refugee experience and refugee crises around the world in 2011. Please be advised that there are some graphic descriptions of the things she has witnessed.
Lucy training traditional Liberian midwives to make a blanket for a newborn baby.
A few years later, Lucy began working at Amani ya Juu as one of the original four refugee women, all struggling to piece together a future. Over the years, as Amani Kenya grew, so did Lucy's skill---as well as a need to invest in other women. She works in the sewing room at Amani Kenya, where she stitches complicated products---from oven gloves to baby bibs---and encourages new trainees around her. Over the years, she has even traveled to other countries to spread peace and a valuable skill set. In 2012 she traveled back to South Sudan to train war widows in sewing, and in 2013 she visited Liberia to train traditional midwives to sew products for newborn babies.
Jerita and Lucy working in the tie-and-dye shed before their Liberia trip in 2013.
Though she has adjusted to Nairobi life, Lucy dreams of returning to South Sudan. "I miss it," Lucy says while stitching a children's elephant toy. "I can pass skills to other women. I want to start something like Amani in South Sudan, but there are some challenges, like the center. Shelter has become a problem for people; everything has become expensive to rent." In South Sudan, both government and rebels have boycotted peace talks.In a recent interview, Lucy explained that her brand new country has fallen fast and hard. Due to civil conflict, children are malnourished, businesses and hospitals are being looted, and villagers are forced to abandon the homes they have worked so hard to build. "I am so discouraged because of what has happened," says Lucy. Lucy knows South Sudan needs peace, and not just on the surface level. The people of South Sudan need physical peace as well as the internal "amani ya juu"---or peace from above in Swahili---which Lucy found at Amani. Lucy feels a sister center in South Sudan is the path to peace for the women of South Sudan. Despite difficulty, Lucy is fiercely loyal to a beautiful future for her country and family. You can see her eyes alight with passion when she paints a mental picture of the future for her family (at 3:28 in this video). "One day I would like to see you sitting under a biiiiig tree. Just looking around the compound with grandchildren running around. The house that we have built, and I will be sitting there with my husband under a very big tree looking around at my grandchildren."