A plate of food in Bidibidi
“When you are in a dangerous situation, you run. You forget about everything because life is the most precious”, says Angelo.
He, his wife Viola, and their young children escaped South Sudan under the cover of darkness, in order to escape from imminent death in one of their country’s bloodiest conflicts. The family walked 60 to 70 km to the border with Uganda. The images of death along the way will stay with Angelo forever.
When they arrived in Uganda, the family was given a small plot of land from which to begin their new and uncertain lives in a new country. They were one of the first refugee families to live in what is now one of the largest refugee settlements in the world—Bidibidi.
Now in his fifth year in the settlement, Angelo is a known leader in the community—a church leader, child-protection committee member, a refugee welfare council leader, and a foster father; but what he considers to be his most important role is that of a loving family man.
“People in the settlement look at me and my wife and wonder why we never fight. They admire us and even think we are rich”, he says, amused.
“Angelo is a very kind man. He accepted me in his home and takes very good care of me. I eat a lot of food here—not like back then when I stayed with my grandmother”, says 13-year-old Brian, Angelo’s fostered child.
Angelo attributes the relative calm and happiness in his household to two things: God and food. Although almost a quarter of a million people receive food from World Vision and the World Food Programme in this settlement, Angelo’s perspective of food is different from others. To him, food is much more than just a meal.
“Food is better than all other things because food brings unity. People eat together. Once you are satisfied, you can cooperate with others. It stops quarrelling and domestic violence”, he says. Angelo is a conflict resolution expert in his community and he says when food is available and enough, his services are not in high demand because households are at peace.
When Angelo fled with his family a half decade ago, his beloved motorcycle came with him.
“I got this motorcycle from my brother in South Sudan,” he says. “We cherished it back at home and this is why I fought so hard to bring it up to Uganda.”
But today, the motorbike has a new life. The devastating impact of COVID-19 restrictions and cuts in food rations means that much of Bidibidi’s population are going hungry. Angelo can’t offer much in the way of resources, but he can offer up his motorbike.
“It now helps me get food, but also do my other work in the community”, he says. Sometimes, Angelo uses this same means of transport to transport food for persons with special needs in his village, like the elderly and people with disabilities.
On food distribution days, Angelo dons his white T-shirt – saved for special occasions – and rides to a World Vision distribution centre. He loads up his motorcycle with about 7.5 kg of goods in the form of maize, beans, vegetable oil, salt, and soap.
A lot of men here think that picking food is a woman’s job. That is why there is a lot of women at the distribution points, but for me, I don’t mind at all. My wife can always pick it whenever I am not around”, he says.
When he is done he rides home. His children listen out for the roar of the motorcycle engine and are excited to see him return. The children are so happy and straight away start playing on top of the food bags with the joy and hope of an assured meal for the day.
After they eat, Angelo leads his family in bible study. They celebrate the many blessings of the day.
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