Hundreds of teddy bears that sat on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London early this year are now providing comfort to child refugees who fled their homes in South Sudan for sanctuary in Uganda.
The 700 bears were collected by World Vision-United Kingdom as part of a social media campaign and flown to Uganda by Kenya Airways.
“We’re very grateful to people in the U.K. who donated these bears,” World Vision’s northern Uganda response director, Paul Sitnam, said in a statement. “Thanks to them, Christmas has come a little early for children here.”
About 700 children a day cross the border from South Sudan into northern Uganda. Many live at the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement near Arua, which is now home to almost 300,000 refugees. It is the largest refugee camp in Africa. Others are at the nearby Imvepi refugee settlement, where the 700 bears have now arrived.
“Children will play with the teddies at World Vision’s 31 Child Friendly Spaces in the settlements,” the agency said. “The spaces provide young people with a safe place to play, get a basic education, engage in peace-building activities, learn about their rights and protection, and steadily recover from distress. They also allow children to return to healthy routines and start to feel normal again.”
“Children at our centers were so happy and excited to welcome Precious [the star bear] and her furry friends,” Sitnam said. “These children have already gone through so much. It’s heart-warming for them to know they are not forgotten, especially during the festive period.”
The teddy bears were last seen together in a Bears on Stairs “flash mob” outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London in July. The stunt on the steps of the cathedral was designed to highlight the plight of children fleeing conflict in South Sudan.
“We hope Precious and the bears enjoyed their flight with us,” said Kenya Airways Katrina Hanson, cargo area manager for Europe and the U.S. “Kenya Airways was delighted to help take the teddies to refugee children in Uganda.
“Everyone remembers having a teddy bear as a child, so to love and hold a bear will delight children who could do with some comfort at a challenging time.”
Adapted from ACNS