What Teresa's life taught me

Here’s a real life story from Sudan that we wanted to share with you. Thank you for stepping forward to help us care for children like Teresa so we can help prevent such atrocities.



Our team in Sudan first found Teresa just a few months after the mass rape, genocide and burning of Darfur had begun. She was about six years old.


Teresa was born out of sex-slavery. Her mother, Rabeka, had been kidnapped from the Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan and forced into sex-slavery in Northern Sudan. After the birth of Teresa, Rabeka escaped. However, the five-decade war between the North and the South made conditions too dangerous for them to return to Rabeka’s original tribe in the South. Rabeka had heard many black Southerners had been forced to move west to Darfur, Sudan. She hoped that she and Teresa would blend in there and finally find safety. So Rabeka and Teresa fled to Darfur.

When Arabic Islamic forces invaded Northern Sudan, everyone in the North either converted to Islam, fled to the South or was murdered by the government soldiers or their hired militia: the Janjaweed. Although they were now Muslim, the new Arabic government forced many of the indigenous black Sudanese west to the Darfur region. The lighter skinned Arabs enjoyed the more developed capital and surrounding area of Khartoum. As the invasion attempt spread deeper into Southern Sudan and attacks devastated much of the country, thousands fled the South to Darfur where many other indigenous black Sudanese from the North had been forced to move by the invading Arabic government.

What Rabeka had no way of knowing is that hatred had been brewing in the hearts of the Arabic leaders against the Muslims of Darfur, too. Although they had converted to Islam, they were indigenous black Sudanese versus the light-skinned Arabic Muslims, and thus, still considered contemptible.

Just as Rabeka found her way into Darfur, the genocide, rapes and burning that took her freedom as a child, now threatened her very life, and the life of her child, Teresa.

The village where Rabeka and Teresa were staying was raided, looted and burned to the ground. During the invasion, Rabeka was raped again – repeatedly. Her rape was so violent that her uterus was ruptured. From that time on, she bled continually.

The survivors in her village banned together and fled to the desert. However, due to her constant bleeding, they would not allow Rabeka to stay close to them as they moved, or even to sleep with them at night. She was considered a threat, as her blood would attract wild life – especially hyenas. Even for those traveling together, survival is very difficult as even water is hard to find in the Sahara Desert. Many died of dehydration, lack of food or basic shelter while trying to flee the Janjaweed.

The people of the village kept young Teresa as they traveled for safety. Rabeka died during the journey, presumably from loss of blood.

When our team found Teresa, she was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration and a severe eye infection. By this time, our team had already used all the medicine they had brought in and had nothing left to treat Teresa.

They left to tell of the atrocities that they had found and to gather more help. By the time our team was able to return, Teresa had died – probably of dehydration.

This was in the early days of the Darfur genocide, before the world knew much of it. Teresa’s story is an unthinkable injustice and a horrific tragedy. Since we have told you the stories of so many orphans in Darfur like Teresa, you have stepped forward to help us care for them. THANK YOU.

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