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Thursday, May 9, 2013

South Sudan: "There are doctors among the children, as well as teachers and engineers and leaders"

Recently we visited a community of former South Sudanese refugees who have resettled in a new location and are taking great strides in rebuilding their lives. This group of families, formerly from a place called Bahamani, is being helped through HOPE International Development Agency by a family foundation that prefers to fly under the radar. One of the big changes that this foundation is sponsoring is a new school for the children. After our visit, there were a few things we wanted to share on their behalf:

Education is something this community holds to fiercely. When someone mentioned the school, the word rippled through the group and people started smiling. Many talked about how important it is for their children to learn so they can grow strong and do good things for others. They wanted us to know what a good thing this school would be for their children, who dearly want to learn. One woman, Joyce Martin, told us about how "there are doctors among the children, as well as teachers and engineers and leaders". We believe her. When we asked the children who was excited for their first day of classes, many jumped up with both arms outstretched to the sky (see picture). The school has been started: the community has started digging the foundation and breaking rocks to mix with cement for the foundation. Work will continue over the next few months.

Access to clean water and related health/hygiene training is something that is also absolutely vital for this community. We heard the very good news late last week that the drill rig has arrived in Ibba and has started drilling; we expect to hear that the borehole is complete any day now. That borehole will mean a lot of good things for this community, the greatest of which is that their children will be healthier. We were horrified to hear that 35 children died in Abugiri between September and December last year. This water will mean it won't happen again this year. The community is ready to take on the challenge of maintaining and managing the borehole. Many women talked about how they would work together to keep the borehole clean and functional. One woman, Yunis Yohanna, stood up and said, simply: "this is our water" and then sat down again as if there was nothing else to say but that.

Thank you. They said this again, and again, and again.

Overall, we were struck by the commitment of the families we met to work together in unity towards a common goal, in order to be able to "do bigger things". They did this last planting season when they supported the weaker members of their community (the elderly, disabled, and widowed) to also plant gardens. The groundnut and maize harvests, they told us, were good ones and they're looking forward to the next planting season now. We have no doubt they'll apply the same commitment to taking care of the school and borehole.

It’s a beautiful portrait of people that have been through hell and are now truly pulling through. It’s all because people like you invested in them.