“I came to Sawa with a purpose”

My Sawa Experience

Our last article was about a youth who has recently gone to Sawa to begin his national service. Keeping in the theme of diaspora who have experienced Sawa, this next piece will be on a youth named Raey Berhane who came from the USA and is now completing his national service.NUEYS Editor


My name is Raey Berhane Ghebrehiwet. I was born in London, England on the 10th of January, 2003. I lived in England for the early stages of my life, and I lived in the states until 2019. In the Summer of 2019 I moved to Eritrea with my family. Once we had arrived in Eritrea I continued my education by starting the 11th grade in Dembe Sembel School. I went to school there for a year, and then on September 8th 2020, with the rest of my classmates, I got on one of the designated buses and began my journey to Sawa.

To be honest, I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous about my journey to Sawa. Although, now after the fact, I actually miss Sawa and a lot of times reminisce on the fascinating experiences I had their.  On the day of my departure I was up at 5am eating breakfast and I remember how astonished I felt that I was actually going to the legendary Sawa, I remember getting on the bus and still not believing the fact, I remember not believing the fact all the way until we reached the gates of Sawa.

Once we had arrived, I finally realized that it was not a dream and that I was truly going to be spending a year at the military and vocational training center. It was the fear of the unknown that was giving me doubts and pumping my adrenaline to the absolute maximum. But once I began to actually witness the unknown, I understood that even though the place was still a mystery to me, the situation was one I would definitely be able to handle.









Unlike most diaspora, I went to Sawa for the whole year, because I went there as a student. So as I said above on September 8th 2020 arrived in Sawa and after 2 weeks of quarantine (this was during COVID19) the first six months were spent going to the Warsai Yikaelo Secondary school, receiving additional tutoring, and studying for the national examinations. This was a very serious time because the final tests we would take later on in the year would determine where our futures would be headed. Every single youths head I saw had their head stuck in a book.


During these months of education I would interact with many different types of students from all over the nation and it was very evident that the significance of education was apparent to students from Asmara to the farthest cities and villages. It was comforting to see that education in Eritrea was not just centralized to the main cities, but that it was spread out to most, if not all areas where Eritreans reside. I also spent my time studying with my peers and also participating in group study sessions. When the time came to take the National Exams I felt prepared and determined to get achieve a good score. At the end I received a degree level score.

After we had completed the six month duration of education in Sawa, the next four months we would proceed to our military training.  In my eyes these were the most adventurous and insightful experiences I had received in my year in Sawa. The military training was definitely not as gruesome as a lot of people make it out to be. Yes, it is physically testing, but the training passed by in a blink of an eye. When you are with your brothers & sisters pushing forward together, you end up flying through the moments together laughing and that’s what gets you through it all.


Another huge thing that got me personally though military training was the fact that I came to Sawa with a purpose, this purpose was to fight till the end and conquer every challenge I faced like my brothers and sisters had done before me and complete my national duty. Whenever situations seemed like they were going to be too difficult I would reflect on my purpose and that would give me the energy to keeping persevering. I won’t lie to to my fellow youth living abroad and say that Sawa was a ‘piece of cake’ or ‘it was easy’, but I will say that as a youth from the diaspora, that Sawa was achievable.

At the end of the day, as an Eritrean, there is nothing in this land that we cannot thrive in. This is not a new phenomenon, Eritrean Diasporas have been returning to the motherland to do what they felt they needed to do for their nation for generations no matter how hard because it was for their nation. This shouldn’t stop at us (the younger generations), if we come with a purpose there is nothing that we won’t be able to do for our nation at the end of the day. So I encourage all able-bodied Eritrean youth living abroad to come to Eritrea and commit to attending to their national duty. This nation is our future, we must be ready to commit to our responsibilities if it’s going to be a bright one.


Written By: Raey Berhane


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