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Alfonse: Never giving up on an education

South Sudan, July 5, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    After years spent displaced during Sudan's long civil war, 20-year-old Alfonse Pawil is now enrolled in a Mercy Corps-sponsored computer training course in Turalei, his hometown. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The exterior of the Mercy Corps Civil Society Resource Center where Alfonse studies in Turalei. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Alfonse Pawil, 20 years old, spent most of his life in a war zone. He was born in Turalei, South Sudan in the midst of the two-decade long bloody civil war that devastated his homeland.

Many families left Sudan during the war and lived as refugees in other countries that were secure, but Alfonse’s family did not have resources to move away. Instead, he spent his entire childhood running.

“I never left Sudan. I have been here from the time of war up to now,” explained Alfonse. “It was terrible. Some of my relatives were killed, but somehow I survived. I was one of the people running up and down the country during the time of war always trying to get away from the bombs.

“During the war when they were bombing, we would hide in the bush until they left the area. Sometimes I was hiding in the bush for weeks and even months waiting for it to be safe to come out.”

The war made it almost impossible to study, but Alfonse never gave up his commitment to getting an education.

“The few schools in the area could not remain open because of the fighting, so I walked for several days to reach the town of Wau where I could take my exams,” recalled Alfonse. “I completed my exams and took the Sudan certificate for my studies.”

Today, Alfonse is living in Turalei with his family and trying to prepare to find a job as a teacher or humanitarian worker.

“Getting a job here is very hard, especially if you are like me and never left the country,” says Alfonse. “My peers who lived in Kenya and other countries had the chance to take computer classes, but people like me who stayed here during the war, have never had a chance to learn about computers.”

Alfonse has enrolled in Mercy Corps computer training program that is offered through the Civil Society Resource Center the organization built in Turalei. Mercy Corps built and operates 11 Civil Society Resource Centers in Sudan that are equipped with computer labs and training, internet access, libraries and audiovisual materials. The centers are used by local organizations for outreach activities and to facilitate dialogues with the local government.

“Now I think my future will be bright because now I have the opportunity to learn about computers and prepare myself for a job and a better life,” says Alfonse.