Tetsuko Kuroyanagi meets the first child to benefit from the Totto Chan Center
By: Mercy Kolok
Juba, 10 April 2013 - UNICEF’s longest serving Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi also known as Totto Chan recently visited the world’s newest nation two decades following her first visit.
"I am so excited to be back in this region, and this time I am back in the world's newest country,” said an elated Madam Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
Tetsuko, one of Japan’s best known actresses and most popular television personalities first visited Juba in 1993 during the Sudanese civil war.
“So much has changed in the last twenty years. I am happy to see that the people of South Sudan have gained their independence and that children are living a normal and healthy life,” said Tetsuko-San
During her visit in 1993, Tetsuko noted that children in South Sudan were keen to have an education and peace in their country even when there was severe shortage of basic needs.
Tetsuko helped to fundraise and advocate for the women and children of South Sudan and through her generous support, the Totto Chan Centre -named after her childhood nickname was built to help children traumatized by war.
Seventeen years after the Totto Chan Center was established, Tetsuko got to meet some of the children who have benefited from the center-among them Patrick*- who was the first child to seek shelter at the facility.
Patrick now 28 was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) at the age of 11 when he was at school in the northern part of Uganda. Patrick successfully escaped from the LRA after his third attempt and came to Juba where he heard about the Totto Chan Center.
“I knew in my heart that I would get help at the Totto Chan Center as it was a center for children. Through the help of Uncle Jim Long, myself and several other children who had escaped from the LRA were sheltered and protected from the LRA who were vigilantly looking for the escapees,” said Patrick.
Through Patrick, fifteen other children affected by the LRA were identified, sheltered counseled and reunified with their families.
“We are grateful to Patrick who helped us to trace and help other children who had escaped from the LRA and to Tetsuko-San through whose generous support thousands of children from South Sudan and the neighboring countries have benefitted through psychosocial support, counseling, family tracing and reunification,” said Jim Long, the former Director of Totto Chan.
Meeting the first child who benefited from the center was an emotional moment for Tetsuko-San who could not hide her joy as she hugged Patrick tightly and engaged him in a long conversation about his experience with the LRA.
“I am excited to meet Patrick and all the other children who have benefitted from Totto Chan Center. It is sad that all these children have gone through traumatic experiences. I am committed to supporting these children and other children who have gone through trauma through the center,” said Tetsuko.
UNICEF through the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare and other partners has supported over 2,500 children affected by armed conflict, demobilized from armed forces, separated and unaccompanied, returnees, abducted, and other vulnerable children have benefitted from services offered at the centre which include; psycho-social support, interim accommodation and care, family tracing and reunification and welfare support.
“Without the Totto Chan center, I would not be the person I am today. I am grateful to Tetsuko, Uncle Long and UNICEF for saving my life,” concluded Patrick.
* Name has been changed.