UN Volunteer Samuel Cherinet in South Sudan: “Seeing practical results of our work makes me proud”
WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL- Impact is not Samuel Cherinet’s middle name, but maybe it should be. The UN Volunteer, based in Wau and serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), is one of the fortunate few frequently given an opportunity to see how their work makes a real difference at the grassroots level.
“I’m pleased to be part of a team preparing the ground for internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their homes, to help them back on their feet after having been forced – by conflict, climate change, being unable to make a livelihood – to flee, often losing everything they own in the process,” he says.
The team Samuel refers to, the Wau office of the peacekeeping mission’s Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section, hailing from neighbouring Ethiopia and arriving with previous experience of working for different international non-governmental organizations in complex humanitarian settings, are factors that have made settling into life in the world’s newest nation a relative breeze.
“They support and motivate me every day, making it easy to adapt and feel integrated,” he reflects on the importance of having good colleagues.
Such team spirit comes in handy when the task one faces is of the kind that could make less determined people crumble. Sharing Samuel’s story today, on World Refugee Day, seems like good particularly timing, considering that his section is the UNMISS component responsible for assisting internally displaced persons and refugees with their safe, voluntary, and dignified return home.
With armed conflict and floods having forced a significant portion of South Sudan’s population to up sticks in the first place, the number of potential returnees is staggering. The fact that thousands of people are indeed coming back to resume their previous lives is, however, good news.
“It is a sign of hope as it means that many have faith in a better future for the country and think that they will be safe and able to sustain themselves at home,” Samuel explains. “But their returns do come with a lot of critical needs for basic services, infrastructure and capacity building of local institutions.”
One part of the UN peacekeeping mission’s response to this challenge goes is called QIPs: Quick Impact Projects. As the name implies, this programme consists of UNMISS-funded initiatives that can be swiftly implemented, often by local partners, at a relatively low cost (below 50,000 USD) – while making a significant difference for the communities being benefitted.
And that’s exactly where Samuel and his team come into their element. Together, they coordinate these Quick Impact Projects, which often take the shape of bore holes, a health clinic, a courtroom, a police station or, quite frequently, a school, or additional classrooms.
I’m particularly fond of our construction or renovation of schools, turning them into vital safe and adequate learning spaces for children, giving them hope for the future. Seeing these projects materialize makes the prospect of coming home more attractive,” Samuel says.
As for Samuel Cherinet himself, he can tick yet another item off his bucket list.
“Being able to help communities affected by crises while at the same time getting invaluable work experience with United Nations Peace Operations was always a dream of mine.”
Regardless of what awaits him next, Samuel can rest assured that he has already left a legacy.