SEPARATION: Mary Ajok’s greatest wish is to be reunited with her mother, from whom she has been separated for 22 years.
SEPARATION: Mary Ajok’s greatest wish is to be reunited with her mother, from whom she has been separated for 22 years.

The heartbreak of missing family

MARY Ajok was just a young child when she was separated from her mother.

It was 1990 and Sudan was in the grip of a brutal civil war and famine. The UNHCR estimates 4,000,000 people were displaced during the conflict.

"During the day we would hide, very still in the forest until it became dark," Mary said.

Nightfall provided protection for the thousands of families who were attempting to reach the Kenyan border. It was also the safest time to find water.

"It was not safe to look for water in the day," Mary said. "We were walking in the forest one night, my mother and my two brothers, looking for water when my older brother was shot dead in front of me."

Blinded by terror, Mary took flight. It was the last time she saw her mother or her brothers.

Mary eventually found herself among a large group of children who had also been separated from their families.

"People from Kenya came in to the forest to find their families," she said.

"That is how we were found and taken to the Kakuma Refugee Camp."

Mary spent 12 long years in the camp but doesn't offer much about her time there.

"There were many murders, bad things happened there," she said.

How she survived as a young child without the protection of family is difficult to fathom but survive she did and she was eventually granted a humanitarian visa and settled in Australia.

"I couldn't believe how much food there was here," the Logan resident said.

"Here you can eat any time, whenever you feel hungry, and the water is clean."

While grateful to have escaped the horrors of her past, Mary longs to be reunited with the mother she lost as a young girl.

"Last year I learned that my mother and my brother had arrived in Kakuma," she said.

Since learning of their whereabouts Mary has been able to make contact with them and is now desperate to see them safe but without an income she can't afford to help them.

"It is very painful that I cannot see my mother," she said. "I need my family to be safe also. It hurts me very much and every day it is hurting me."

Mary said she has found it profoundly difficult to find employment in Australia.

She has completed an Aged Care Certificate III and earned a Community Service diploma but her attempts to secure employment have so far been unsuccessful.

"I don't know why I do not get a job," Mary said. "I want to work; I want to see my family."

While she continues to seek employment, Mary serves as a volunteer with Access Community Services.

The Sudanese Civil War lasted 22 years and is one of the longest civil wars on record.

An estimated 2,000,000 people died during the conflict.

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