A journey into Hellen Edward Gayo’s thoughts would have been rough. Though still a teenager, she has experienced so much pain, more than even an adult can take. All of this can be traced to the war back in South Sudan which prodded large wounds in her heart.
First, they killed her sibling, then she was separated from her mother and must now live as a refugee in Uganda, hundreds of miles away from home. She desperately needed to escape that pain and had given up all hope until she discovered the school library stocked by Windle International Uganda with support from Book Aid International.
Yes, reading became Hellen’s escape—a chance for her to dream again.
“My favorite book is the maggot moon,” Hellen, a student at Rhino Camp High School in Arua District, says. “It’s about a boy called John, who was all alone, and he was separated from his family during a war.”
She sees herself in John, the young lonely orphan boy who did not know how to read and write and only learnt through a friend at school. She loves his resilience! “I like that he kept learning and getting more friends and when, he finally grew up, he started working for himself,” she narrates. “I connect with it because when I came, I did not know where my parents were and I always felt lonely.”
Besides resonating with the characters in the stories, reading has helped improve her diction, grammar, and communication skills. “I pronounce the words well, I know how to use them and exactly where to put them,” she boasts. “And in case I find a word that I cannot pronounce, I either come to the English teacher or the library attendant.”
She further explains that she can now dream of her profession with ease. “I would like to be a lawyer, if not a journalist!” she says. “Lawyers defend suffering people, and journalist make sure that the world knows what is happening to these people.”
She is constantly amazed by how fully stocked the library is and how much variety there is to choose. At first, she was wary of it and thought there might be many rules, but this couldn’t have been further away from the truth.
“When you want a book, the library attendant gives you the opportunity to check; he just notes the title down, then gives you enough time to read and return it,” she tells of the flawless process. “When I started borrowing books in Senior One, I was not very active, but when more books were brought by Windle International Uganda, I frequented the library.”
Because of the library, Hellen maintains that she has gained more exposure and allowed herself to dream some more. “I now know there is a bigger world out there because of these books, I dream about it,” she speaks with an effortless command of the English language. “Thank you so much Windle International Uganda and Book Aid International!” she concludes with a smile on her face.