Chagai grew up in South Sudan where women were to be seen and not heard. From seven years of age she had to carry heavy containers full of water on her head for kilometres back to her family in blistering heat. Although her dream was to be a Doctor, so she could help others, in Year 8 she was forced to leave school and focus on household chores. She narrowly avoided an arranged marriage. You can listen to Chagai tell her story of resilience at the Humans in Geelong Expo on Sunday 7th October at 2.30pm in room D2.211 at Deakin Waterfront Campus. PLEASE SHARE.
Despite all this, Chagai has gone on to become a leader in her community, here in Geelong.
She and her family fled war-torn Sudan in early 2000s. They walked for days, then travelled by ship to Egypt and train to Cairo. Here the UN found them a position in Australia.
“In Sudan it had been too dangerous during the war to play outside. Having lost my childhood, I embraced the opportunities available in Australia. I studied English then Social Work at Deakin University. My husband and I had 9 children, three sets of twins, our youngest is 12.
“In 2011 South Sudan was granted independence. I wanted to give back to my community there, so I fundraised and over two years established 6 water wells in my home State. I’d established a not-for-profit – Geelong and South Sudan Community coming together – Mayom Karraduit.
“Women and girls in my community had to walk up to 8 hours daily to get water. We’d carry up to 40 litres of water on our heads. Because we could only manage to carry this amount, families were limited to two glasses per day. Can you imagine – no water for showering, no water for anything but washing clothes, rarely, and a few dishes. We’d experience extreme heat yet there was no water to play with, or even drink.
“You should have seen the welcome we received when we returned to the village to start work on the water wells. The whole village walked for miles in intense heat to meet us. There was a huge celebration with music, singing and dancing (even after all the walking). My family and I took part in the Welcome Ceremony where we all had to step over a goat. I met with the elders of the village and they could see that I was genuine in wanting to help my community.
“My Deakin Lecturer, Norah, had become like a sister to me and she joined me on this trip.
“In 2014 I built a school in Mayom Karraduit. Before, the children had to walk up to 3 hours to get to school and if they were late they’d be beaten.
“My aim is to empower young girls to get an education. If there are wells, they won’t have to spend their days walking for water. If there is a school nearby, they can all attend. Look where education has got me.
“My message is to be caring, loving and grateful.”
Be inspired by Chagai as she tells her inspirational story at the Humans in Geelong Expo at 2.30pm Deakin Waterfront, Sunday 7th October.
Story: Jacqui Bennett Photos: supplied