The South Sudan of my early youth was a beautiful, peaceful place. I remember waking up early in the morning to go to the river with my mother. In the afternoons, my brothers, Ter and Duop, and sister, Sunday, and I would play hide and seek with our friends in the center of our village. In the evenings, we all sat together, my mother, father, brothers, sister and I, to share a feast. I cherish these memories, and what, at the time, seemed like an ordinary, daily routine.
One day, when I was eight years old, my friends and I chased each other through the tall grass that bordered our village, tripping over branches, and giggling as we helped each other up. And then I felt the earth shake. I covered my ears, but could not block out the deafening, ever-loudening bang-bang-bang that enveloped me. That was the moment when the War reached my town, forever shattering my family and my life.
As the pounding of the earth became stronger, my friends and I scattered in different directions. I would never see those friends again. I sprinted home, to my mother, who I knew would give me a hug and then lead us all to safety. But when I arrived home, my young heart beating out of its chest, my mother was gone. No hug. No safety.