Helmut Kutin award winner 2015

Isaac Adowk from South Sudan

Armed soldiers, a crocodile infested river, rocket-propelled grenade fire and a 200 km long journey, mostly on foot. These are just some of the things Isaac Adowk (28) braved to save 33 children from SOS Children’s Village Malakal in South Sudan.

photo: © SOS Archive
Isaac was Youth Leader in Malakal when fighting broke out between anti-goverment forces and pro-government troops in December 2013. In mid-February 2014 Isaac took advantage of a lull in the fighting and evacuated 41 children, youth, mothers and aunts to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. But increased tension made further evacuations impossible. During heavy fighting on 18 February 2014 that Isaac and 33 children were separated from the rest of the village. They were forced to flee across the Nile, swimming and with small boats. Some children and youth were taken by relatives, but Isaac was left with 23 children, of whom the youngest was two years old. As they embarked on their long journey to safety, Isaac faced many problems like finding food and safe places to sleep, while the smaller children cried for their mothers.

The dangers they faced included being killed or wounded, girls could have fallen victim to sexual abuse or rape and boys could have been taken and recruited by armed forces. More than two weeks after they set off, the group safely reached the small town of Palouch, from where they were evacuated to the new emergency SOS Children’s Village in Juba.

Even before the conflict started, Isaac proved himself to be an outstanding leader. He supports SOS Children’s Village mothers in their homes, helps young people with the transition from the village to the youth facility and sometimes acts as Village Director. He is respected by the youth, who listen to his advice and guidance.

Read more about the other winners of the Helmut Kutin Award 2015: