Jacob* is 17 years old. He should be enjoying school, hanging out with friends, and thinking about his future, but instead his short life has been marred by struggle.
His mother gave birth to him in the bush in Sudan when she was just 15 years old.
She had been taken captive by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA, a Ugandan rebel group lead by Joseph Kony) while on her way to school and forced both to fight in the conflict and be the “wife” of another soldier.
“Life in the bush was not easy – she was beaten, given heavy luggage to carry over long distances and often had no food to eat or water to drink. People used to drink urine when there was no water available,” Jacob says.
When he was young, his father used to bring him treats like clothes and biscuits. But things got much harder for Jacob and his mother when his father died.
“When he passed on life started to become difficult for me… I was no longer being protected from danger. Attacks used to happen almost every day.”
Eventually, Jacob and his mother escaped. During an attack on the rebel group, they managed to run away. His mother told him they were going home.
“I didn’t know what ‘home’ looked like but I was eager to see it… We walked for two days and still hadn’t reached home.
“I asked, ‘Where is home?’ and started to cry. My mother kept quiet.”
Eventually they arrived back at his mother’s home town. At first, they were welcomed by the community there, but soon faced the stigma of having been associated with rebels.
“Now people in the community are calling me a rebel child,” Jacob says. “Other children discriminate against me. I am being rejected, but I am just like any other child. What’s wrong with being born in the bush?"