20-year old Hellena Yar Maguen has been with Women for Women International- South Sudan since 2007. She earns enough to support herself and her family, all despite paralysis in her right hand. She is one of WfWI-Sudan’s best success stories, and living proof that one’s abilities are not only skin-deep.
According to Western standards she would be considered just a young girl, but at age 20 Hellena Yar Maguen is already the mother of a 4-month baby boy, Makur, and the sole bread-winner for her family of three. Yar has never known life outside her grass thatched, mud-walled house in her father’s homestead, two kilometers from Pacong town in South Sudan. She laughs when she says she’s never been farther than the two-kilometer walk necessary to fetch water.
When she was two years old, Yar contracted polio leaving her right hand paralyzed. Only her left hand is functional. Yet Yar works daily on Women for Women International-Sudan’s communal farm, maintaining six plots of land and earning $175 each month. She dazzles all who meet her with her light and jovial attitude and has earned the utmost respect from her fellow participants in the Women for Women International-South Sudan (WfWI-South Sudan).
Yar joined WfWI-Sudan in 2007 and excelled as one of the program’s top students. She began working on the farm when it opened in 2008, cultivating kale, cowpeas, and okra. Not only has Yar earned the respect of her fellow women, but also that of her husband, Majok, who seems to be an anomaly in this community where women are traditionally treated as property by their husbands. Yar is Majok’s only wife, which is unusual in her Dinka community where most men take many wives. They have a very happy marriage. When Yar is unable to attend to her plots, Majok is always at hand to help. And when she must go to work, Majok will take on the responsibility of caring for their 4-month old son.
Yar is one of the many success storiesWfWI- South Sudan, but hers is perhaps most remarkable given her physical disability. But Yar is living proof that her disability is not an inability. With the money she earns, Yar is able to provide for her family as well as put some away into a bank account. She hopes to secure a small loan to start her own business in the future and to see Makur receive a good education. She has dreams of building a permanent home for herself, Majok and baby Makur away from her father’s settlement. Yar’s hard work and determination, and the support from her family and community, will make these dreams come true.