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I Can Tell You Exactly The Risks Child Refugees Face Because I Was One

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Every time you ‘like’ and share this post, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per social action), up to $500,000, via the Global Moms Relay, to help improve the health and well-being of families worldwide in support of Shot@Life, Girl Up, Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund, U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Nothing But Nets. More below!

I grew up as a child in a refugee camp. In the camp you are not just a child refugee, but a child to the world. Growing up, many people were caring for me — people I didn’t know. They came in the form of donations, in the form of treatment, in the form of psychotherapy.

There are many issues to deal with mentally, economically, and socially. It can be hard to tell someone you don’t know how best to help, but it makes the job much harder when you can’t communicate what you need.

Refugees must be able to advocate for themselves, to share their needs, be open to volunteers and organizations, and they should know that the world has not forgotten them.

Why I Still Fight for Refugees
Many people want to leave the world a better place than the one we entered. I grew up in a very violent environment. In fact, I grew up with nothing. Today people call me a “Lost Boy” from Sudan — I don’t want to see another child go through what I went through.

It’s difficult for me to see photos of Syrian children, and children from all over the world, living through these humanitarian crises. Who becomes the victim here? The child. The mother. The elderly.

So how do we end this crisis? We have to work together. We are all human and because of that, and because of the the love we have for ourselves, we should exemplify our love towards others. We need to love our neighbors. No matter where we live in the world, we love each other, we are all neighbors.

What Gives Me Hope
Today I am a global advocate for a campaign called Nothing But Nets to help prevent the spread of malaria in refugee camps. They picked a global fight; and it’s not their fight, it’s everybody’s fight. I have hope when I think about the initiatives, organizations, and people that wake up everyday and are focused on how to help refugees. All these people are taking initiative and going out there to do things for others. That’s the definition of community. That’s something we share. Something that gives me hope.

What I’d wish for every child is safety and love. Every child wants to feel loved, safe, cared for. No matter the economic situation, we should always practice love. These children should know that the world can be peaceful. They should grow up knowing that someone cares about you, loves them, that there still is hope. People care for them, and they are doing it out of love.

Thon Chol is a refugee and refugee advocate. He saw firsthand the impact that malaria had on his refugee camp and is now a champion for Nothing But Nets.

Editor’s Note: This story was edited and condensed from an interview with Reverend Thon Moses Chol at the Nothing But Nets Champion Summit. Chol had to flee his home in South Sudan as a child because of violence. Growing up, he saw firsthand the devastating toll that malaria takes on refugees. It’s a leading cause of death for refugees in Africa. Last year, Nothing But Nets launched The Million Nets Pledge to provide bed nets to protect refugees and their families across sub-Saharan Africa from malaria.

RELATED: “Refugees are part of the human family.”

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