Turning passion into an opportunity for growth

There was so much to learn during the course and every day, we would do something different. The main thing is that it occupies my mind and it stops me from thinking too much about the bad things I saw happening in South Sudan.
Isaac Gereny, 24
South Sudanese refugee, Bidibidi refugee settlement

Isaac Gereny is a 24-year-old refugee from South Sudan. He fled his home with his mother and five siblings in 2016, when fresh fighting broke out; and he is currently living in Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda. He successfully completed a vocational skills training course in tailoring and garment cutting.

I have loved sewing since I was a child. My mother taught me when I was a young boy to make clothes with a needle and said it would always be a useful skill. I never imagined that one day it would come to mean so much, and provide me with a small income.

I studied up to Primary 3 in South Sudan but even then, I have always thought of how I can be self-reliant. In Yambio South Sudan, I was able to participate in a vocational skills course in tailoring for three and a half months. As I studied, I left my siblings at kindergarten.

Tailoring in new fashions and skills was best for me. There was so much to learn during the course and every day, we would do something different. The main thing is that it occupies my mind and it stops me from thinking too much about the bad things I saw happening in South Sudan. We were a close family, but we had to flee South Sudan, my father and one of my sisters are in a refugee camp in Kenya, I worry about them every day. But sewing has become my escape from such thoughts.

Using my hands and creating something beautiful earns me a living and it also calms me down. The lady and gentleman who teach the tailoring class were like parental figures for us, and I am grateful for that.

My business is boosted with the local market within the settlement as I make dresses for the community within and around village 2 of Zone 4. I recently received an order to make dresses for the local church choir of around 35 people. Once I get the money, I will use it to plan to establish a tailoring shop in the nearby trading centre.

With funding from KLUB, Oxfam has been able to train about forty-seven (47) refugees, including 24-year-old Gereny, in various skills including bricklaying, tailoring, hairdressing, motor repairs among others. With these trainings, refugees have been empowered to be self-reliant and also earn a living which they use to better their lives.