Refugee Voices: Overcoming Religious Persecution and Abuse
01 October 2018

With JRS’ help, Abeba’s disabled child is able to attend school

Abeba* is a 38 years old mother of five kids who escaped from Eritrea in 2011. Like many of her fellow refugees, Abeba escaped from Eritrea to Sudan for security reasons after been attacked from practicing her religion, Pente.

In Eritrea, the right to freedom of worships is a foreign concept. “I was not allowed to hold religious gatherings, or private worships”, Abeba said. People practicing in unregistered churches were at risk of detention and incarceration for unspecified period of time. Abeba was imprisoned. After being released, she fled to Sudan leaving her children behind with her mother. Later that year, her mother brought the children to Abeba. With her children, Abeba then decided to go to Egypt and later to South Africa, where she was reunited with her husband who had been living there already.

After being in South Africa for one month, Abeba became pregnant with her fifth child and her husband began to deny that the child was his. Throughout Abeba’s pregnancy, her husband beat her and her children. He left Abeba with little support: “I had to go to the hospital by myself and I didn't know how to speak English.” At the hospital, Abeba was mistreated, neglected and turned away even though she was in labor. The next day, she returned and gave birth by cesarean section. A baby girl, Dinha*, was born, but did not cry for nine minutes. She later suffered from a variety of mental and physical disabilities.

After Abeba was abandoned by her husband due to their daughter disabilities, a friend of Abeba’s offered shelter for her and her children. To help pay for her accommodations, Abeba washes hair at the salon from time to time. Abeba’s eldest daughter, now 19 years old, dropped out of school after grade 5 in order to help care for her sister and sell accessories in the street. The girl was mugged while she was selling, so she does this less frequently now.

Through word-of-mouth, Abeba heard of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international Catholic organization which aims to accompany, serve, advocate for refugees or displaced persons. JRS assisted her with transportation and education fees for Dinha, who is now four years old. Dinha attends the Perfect Little World preschool, a nursery school that caters to children with and without special needs. The school serves 30 children, including 12 with special needs. There, Dinha receives personalized care and physical therapy and interacts with other children every day.

Abeba is grateful to JRS for the support they offer her family. As JRS provides for Dinha’s education and transportation, Abeba is now able to care for her other children and seek employment to support her family independently.

*All names are changed for the privacy and safety of the family.

Press Contact Information
Mr. Tim Smith
+27 11 618 3404