Most introductions to who I am have always gone like this; Jaiksana is a South Sudanese refugee activist, musician, and co-founder of Platform Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation NGO) working to support and empower vulnerable displaced communities in South Sudan and Uganda. It's quite a summary, except that it scratches on the surface of the story responsible for who I am today, so here’s that story.
My story has been about overcoming adversity, breaking out of boxes, and beating the odds — I was born in a Refugee camp in Northern Uganda ( on 2nd August of 1996). A brutal civil conflict had displaced countless people from Southern Sudan (Now South Sudan) including my parents and in the refugee camps, they were faced with the challenge of trying to make a living in the absence of opportunities - deprived of everyday living necessities. To my parents who have had their livelihoods crushed by the civil conflict, life in the refugee camp felt like walls without a way out.
These walls/traps manifested when my parents couldn't get an education or when they lack the skills and capital to set up a business and ended up living below minimum wage under the motto ' I hope things work out.'
Today, we are partaking in that story too — After graduating high school (after repatriation) and hoping to enroll in college. Another civil conflict erupted in 2013 when South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of refusing to adapt his tradition of wearing a cowboy hat. I'm joking, he accused him of plotting a coup and it resulted in mass displacement again. In 2016, we were among a million people who were forced to flee South Sudan for a second time, and it was at this moment, I realized the true extent of the impact of conflict. Everything that we own was gone in a blink of an eye, we lost our home and met with nothing. Essentially, we were back to square one, trapped in that wall again.
I lost hope for my life and spiraled into stress at the foot of those events but I didn't let my situation get the best of me and instead decided to do something different. I felt an urge and responsibility to break the vicious circle of communities getting displaced, failing to attain education, becoming susceptible to poverty, and living unfulfilling/unproductive lives. So I channeled my concern and frustration towards creating change and co-founded Platform Africa. People are still being displaced by the hour at unprecedented levels and we are engaging interventions that go beyond aid or hands-out but programs that recognize that displaced communities are more than just numbers but people with aspirations, hopes, and dreams.
Something has to change, otherwise many refugees will continue to sink under the weight of poverty, inequality, and susceptibility to conflict so I dedicated my time to educate refugees like myself on peace, technology, and entrepreneurship. My audacious goal is to break the circle of poverty, nurture talent, and in the process building a critical & well-empowered mass of refugees that, fast forward in the next 10 years or before any consequent repatriations, refugees are set for success, armed with the tools to create meaning for their lives, to contribute to solving social ills, and building sustainable change.
I strongly believe that there are many Elon Musk's, Albert Einstein, and Mark Zuckerbergs in refugee camps but they lack the platform to help them realize and unleash their full potential. Today, our work at Platform Africa is aimed at benefiting these displaced communities through the building of platforms to enhance and provide equitable opportunities through training and advocacy.
I am using my voice and story to create awareness of the refugee crisis, share my passion and vision for peace, and demand actionable change.
So that’s the story about why I do what I do. If I am not doing any of that, I am probably drinking water and advocating for veganism.