UNMISS police officer from Sweden initiates fundraiser, hands over sports gear to hundreds of youths

unmiss south sudan western bahr el ghazal sweden police unpol idps sports boys girls fundraiser

Swedish police officer Sandra Bylund, spreading the gospel of football among internally displaced boys and girls in Western Bahr El Ghazal.

16 Feb 2023

UNMISS police officer from Sweden initiates fundraiser, hands over sports gear to hundreds of youths

Michael Wondi/Filip Andersson

“We used to be idle here because most of us have no jobs and nothing to do, but have a look now and you’ll see how busy and happy they are since we received all these things,” says Joseph Nema, a young man staying at the Naivasha camp for internally displaced persons in Wau.

“All these things” are balls for playing football and volleyball, shoes, jerseys, socks, gloves for goalkeepers, whistles for the referees and lots of other sport related goodies, handed over to hundreds of delighted boys and girls by Sandra Bylund, a UN police advisor from Sweden, serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Hawa James Mangu is another of the almost 6,000 people who have been residing at the Naivasha camp since 2016, when armed conflict forced them to flee from their homes.

“Receiving all this equipment has been a real gamechanger. These days, lots of people get together in the evenings to play and have fun, even many who were not very interested in socializing before,” she says, once again proving the old adage about sports being a uniting force as true as ever.

Sandra Bylund decided to take action after a conversation with Asma, a woman staying at the camp and worrying about the sense of hopelessness caused by everyone idling and brooding at home, on their own.

“I reached out to colleagues and friends back home in Sweden, who raised enough money to buy impressive quantities of clothes, shoes and balls. It warms my heart to see the joy and change of mindset that these items have given the young people living here,” she says.

Sandra Bylund’s use of the word “impressive” is no exaggeration. Among all the other stuff, no less than 600 jerseys and 130 footballs have been delivered to the Naivasha camp community.

Sandra Bylund, soon coming to the end of her tour of duty in South Sudan, will soon return to Swedish winter. The occasional look at photos of joyous footballers will no doubt help keep her warm.