Ana meets Sister Angélique Namaika


Ana-Teresa (front row, 3rd from left) at the ceremony

Ana Teresa at the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony (front row, 3rd from left). Photo by J. Tanner/2013.

Picking up the pieces of your life

By Ana Teresa da Costa Fernandes, Communication and Sustainability at IKEA Portugal.

As an IKEA co-worker, today I had one of my best days ever in ten years of working in the company. In Geneva, while waiting for the Nansen Refugee Award ceremony, we spent the day with the UNHCR team, travelling the world through their eyes and experiences. From Ethiopia to Bangladesh, from Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we learned what it means to be a refugee living in a refugee camp. Being a refugee means that you don’t belong anywhere anymore.

Sister Angélique Namaika, the Nansen Award winner who we are here to celebrate, doesn’t agree with this assumption. Oh no! She is there in front of me and her smile is so wide and pure that I get the message. In Dungu she rides her bicycle as if the world is a promenade. She smiles back at everybody. Her smile is the size of the world, her world, the world she created in her small village where she shelters girls and women who were abused and raped by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). Sister Angélique has beautiful and curious eyes that see way ahead of her small village in the heart of Africa. She has no fear, and she puts that in words while helping girls and young women believe again. She teaches them letters and numbers, love and hope. She teaches them how to sew and how to cook. She teaches them it is okay to smile again. They dance together and they heal. Together. Theirs is a work of love.

The girls call her Mother. One girl, very shy but smiling, says: “I don’t have a mother any more, but I have Sister Angélique now, and she is my mother. She is teaching me to pick up the pieces of my life.”I look at Sister Angélique, right by my side at the ceremony, and I dare to hold her hands in mine and just say: “Thank you.”


By Ana Teresa da Costa Fernandes/2014.


1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at