Achuil Wol

A place to call home

My name is Achuil Wol, I’m 29 years old. I came to Australia in 2004 after spending nearly 5 years in a refugee camp in Northern Kenya, a place called Kakuma. 

Since fleeing a small village in war-torn South Sudan when I was eight years old, I’ve found a place to call home in Adelaide.

I was born in the middle of the war between South and North Sudan in 1990. When I was eight years old, my brother decided we would go to a refugee camp in Kenya. He left then, when he knew it was safe there, he sent for myself and my cousin. It was a survival life, it was far from home. When you leave, you just leave for safety.

In the refugee camp I attended school for three hours a day. I had the same teacher from years one to seven.

I was 10 when I started school and learning the alphabet because of the war, . We were always moving from one place to another. Three years later, my uncle sent for me and my brother to go to Nairobi. There were tall buildings there and I had never seen that before. It was unimaginable. My uncle put me in a private school because he wanted me to learn. In the family there has to be one person who gets the education. I learned so quick, I jumped through the classes and was getting the top marks but we went back to the refugee camp because it wasn’t affordable to live in the city, and my brother went back to Sudan. A couple of years later, My uncle began the process of applying for immigration.

We didn’t know how to write or read much so we had a translator. We went for the interview and they asked us why we want to leave – we told them we wanted an opportunity to be in a better place. The whole process took three years from the interview. You apply to leave the refugee camp with no idea where you are going. We didn’t know which country is which but anywhere is better than where you are.

I arrived in Adelaide with my older brother and cousin in October 2004. I had never heard of Adelaide. It was very exciting when we first landed. I think because of the experience with the war, I was just excited to be going to a new place. There was nice grass where we could play soccer. The first thing I asked was to go to school.

I was determined to learn and get my education but found it difficult to adjust to the lifestyle of “a normal high school”.

High school years were the most challenging as a teenager. I didn’t fit into the demographics. My brother worked on farms so I grew up raising myself – that was normal and expected. I moved to a private school to get the support that I needed. I got my first job fixing bikes in a bike shop then in year 10 I got a job at Red Rooster and then at McDonald’s. My goal was to become a doctor and help people.

After graduating from high school, I enrolled to study a Bachelor of Social Science at UniSA. 

I wanted to do something that would help people because of what I went through. When I was 19, I dropped out and had my son Junior. I got into a life of alcohol and drugs. I got evicted, it was a struggle. I eventually went back to uni and into recovery. That’s when I decided to get into youth work and became a youth worker for five years. When I was 23 I applied for a place that had an extra room for my son and I was so happy when they rang and said I got approved for it. Now I see him every week. It means a lot to me. I grew up without a mum and dad so I want to do something different for my son.

With a Master of Social Work my sights, And so many other challenges I’m proud of the many challenges he has taken on during my young life. It’s easy to feel like a victim but everything that’s happened has made me more resilient in a way. The way we were raised is to just focus on whatever comes your way and what you need to do. This is how I’ve lived and because I’ve come out the other end, I want to help people.

Currently I work full time with young people who are in state care. It doesn’t even feel like work to me. They’re my best moments.

In 2019 I came across a lively team of people at Welcome Australia, at this time we were running a youth meeting every week at the welcome centre facility. I was invited to join the Welcoming Futures course and was very excited to join. 

I wish to one day tell more of my story but as life goes on I’m healing, even though some of my experiences are still too triggering to talk about right now. But I know I’m a working progress and will one day be able to open up more.

Thanks for taking your time to read my story.