Ugandan Woman enabling Breastfeeding Refugee Mothers to acquire vocational Skills in Bidibidi Refugee settlement

When you meet Grace Drateru, you can’t fail to tell that she adores children. The young Ugandan woman is from Yumbe District and babysits more than 65 children at Yoyo Vocational Iinstitute in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement zone 3 Yumbe district in north western Uganda also known as West Nile region. The settlement was set up after the upheaval and violence that broke out in South Sudan in 2016 and that led to the displacement of over 270,000 people who are currently occupying the area.   At the vocational institute, which is run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (an NGO) Drateru ’s job is to babysit children of refugee breastfeeding mothers while they attend skills-based  training sessions. She makes sure that the mothers are at peace even without their babies insight so they can fully participate in the skills trainings. Drateru Grace works alongside Eunice Ayaa, a refugee mother who volunteers at the nursery section when not in training.

Drateru, a mother of two’s zeal is to see babies all happy and smiles, this she said  drives her to do her job.

  “I love seeing children happy; I also think by working in a settlement, I am giving back to the refugee community in my area,” she added.

Drateru said her her passion to cater for children enables her to accomplish this godly work. On a typical day, She arrives at the station at 8 : 00AM and cleans the shelter to prepare the room for the mothers before they drop off their babies at 9:30AM. She lays down the mattresses with baby sheets, this she said is where mothers lay their babies if they are asleep when they arrive.  In the corner of the well-lit pink and blue- painted room, is a small play area where babies  that come when awake or those that can sit play from. Another part of the room provides space for mothers to have time with their babies in between training time,  in most cases this  is to breastfeed or carry them when the baby sitter fails to silence them. However, Drateru said that those are rare occasions and happen only when the child is sick or has an infection.

Now with a  two years’ experience working in the nursery, Drateru tells us how she landed the job, despite the rampant unemployment in the country.

“I heard an advertisement on local media about different positions, I actually applied for two jobs: catering and babysitting. I expected to be offered the catering job since I hold a certificate in catering,” Drateru said.

When she was offered the opportunity to work as a babysitter, she didn’t hesitate but  happily ceased the opportunity and does not regret missing out on the chef job.  Babysitting, Drateru believes, is one way she is helping the refugee community, especially the breast feeding mothers who she is helping acquire hands on skills.  Eunice Ayaa, a volunteer and also a refugee mother under Drateru Grace’s supervision, spoke highly of her boss. She says ever since she started working with her, Drateru became like a sister and family to her since most of her relatives stayed back at home in South Sudan. Achidiria Fred, the in- charge of the vocational training center and also responsible for the nursery, commended Grace for the job she is doing, to enable mothers at the center access skills trainings. He added that when the center opened, many mothers had refused to report for the skilling project because they had to stay at home to take care of their children. Achidiria Fred said he is grateful to Drateru Grace for being selfless, dedicated and a hardworking woman who has enabled breastfeeding mothers  concentrate in training sessions without having much to worry about especially the safety of their babies. Not even stereotypes surrounding refugees in settlements could stop Drateru from applying for a job and working in a settlement area. With the little she earns, she says she is happy and grateful that she is able to live sustainably together with her family.

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