Raga’s passion is ever evident in her determination to help those who desperately need it.
As a Sudanese refugee, Raga Gibreel knows too well the suffering, tragedies and harshness that come from a contagious civil war that continues to destroy Sudan and its people. Raga however was fortunate enough to find sanctuary; she says that coming to the UK opened her eyes to true freedom.
‘Many people in the UK do not realise the gift of democracy, the right to vote or veto, to be able to speak freely without fear for your life. To be able to dress as you like or allowed custody of your children, to rent your own property without prejudice or judgements; these things may seem simple and part of basic human rights, but in Sudan they are prohibited.’
Raga’s own experiences as a Sudanese woman made all the existing struggles harder to ignore or abandon. In response to the devastation that still affects South Sudan, where more than 70,000 refugees live in make shift tents in the Yida camp, with hundreds of scattered orphaned children, she was determined to find a way of supporting and educating the women and children stranded in these and ensure their survival.
“It is the fear of the unknown that creates obstructions and not knowing your rights,” She explains. “It is painful and heart-breaking to continually see the daily struggles ‘people face…I could not just sit and do nothing. I needed to contribute something, to try and make things better”
A once hopeful journalist in Sudan, Raga understands the significance and value of education, but she says it was during her time at Reading University in 2010 that she realised the true importance of forming grassroots education and strategic programmes that could potentially develop civilised societies and democracy.
Following years of research, networking and hard work Raga began to form strategies for developing grass root education and in 2010 she set up the charity Green Kordofan.
Green Kordofan‘s primary objective is to create a ‘culture of peace’ and develop self-esteem amongst young people living in the refugee camp in Yida, South Sudan, through the ‘Sports for Social Change’ initiative.
Raga’s motivation was simple, “to educate girls and boys, to make them understand each other, to bridge the gender gaps and build relationships”.
While the organisation does have a number of trustees and occasional volunteers, Green Kordofan is mostly a one woman show staring Raga herself and she feels exceptionally passionate about the importance of Green Kordofan’s mission to provide the basic needs like food, health and shelter, while at the same time training and educating orphaned children. She wants to support them, in the hope of equipping them with tools to better themselves and strengthen their self-esteem.
With the support of UK charities, such as ‘Coaches across Continents’ and ‘Peace One Day,’ Green Kordofan, has created educational programmes for the ‘Sports for Social Change’ initiative, as well as providing online training material to train and support facilitators and coaches in the Yida refugee camp to coordinate sports activities, organise tournaments and teach the educational programmes.
Through ‘Sports for Social Change’ Green Kordofan has been able to develop the first girls’ volleyball team in South Sudan, where a group of almost 50 girls train weekly and compete in friendly competitions. The organisation has also developed three friendly boys’ football teams through Raga’s coordination.
“During our games we provide meals for the children and also discuss local issues like HIV, social equity and conflict resolutions.”
Sports provides a vehicle to engage and educate children about the many difficulties they face: not only do the training programmes build discussions and awareness regarding key social and health issues, they also provide medical supplies and meals for the children as well as sports equipment to maintain the momentum.
Originally Raga did have fears about how to get her projects going, but she is thankful to the UK with its many foundations and charitable organisations that gave her the tools for development and education and her appreciation for the support she received continues to grow.
“It is a fantastic country full diversity. It is this diversity that makes the country special and makes you feel you are not alone.’
Raga has worked tirelessly to build Green Kordofan from the ground, but it is still in its early stages and the situation in South Sudan is ever worsening. She explains that, “the situation in the Nuba Mountains and for the refugees in South Sudan is heart breaking, their needs are dire.” There is still much more work to do, and with limited resources and funding, the organisation is still fighting its way up a very steep mountain and is always searching for support.
However, Raga has a fearless persona. Despite the hardships she witnessed and experienced throughout her life, she is persistent in her ambition to educate and support those most in need.
“If you believe what your doing is right you have to stand up for what is right”.