Day Two in Duk Payuel

Thursday, November, 11, 2010

It’s 11 am and already I’m sweating, my arms and legs glistening. Isn’t sweat supposed to cool? Perhaps, if there was a breeze.

For breakfast: hot milk with a little Nescafe and a granola bar from my food supply. I share with my roommate, children, and the staff when I have enough. I gave a bag of cranberries and walnuts for the cooks to add to some of our meals, but I suggested they taste them, which also brought out the midwives, and we may never see them again. Tom prides himself on his stoicism in the face of hardship, but he isn’t immune to the lure of variety to the limited diet here. Food supplies are low due to flooding—the supply plane was unable to land in October, and only essential supplies arrived in November.

After breakfast, Joh Deng and a young Sudanese helped me to carry the supplies to the school. Heavy stuff. We arrived at ten and met with the senior teacher. I unpacked a duffle bag full of markers, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, pencils, and legal pads. For the small library: some early reading books, a picture atlas, a stars and planets book, a puzzle of the world (each country is a puzzle piece), several copies of Joseph Akol Makeer’s book and a DVD of African Soul, American Heart. As I unpacked the big bags, it reminded me of my trip to Siberia with my husband and father to adopt our daughter, Svetlana. We lugged huge duffles full of supplies for the orphanage, but after we distributed everything amongst the caretakers for each of the seven family groups of 15, my dad remarked, “It seemed like a lot of stuff when we carried it in, but it doesn’t go very far for all these children.”

I met with the midwife, Caroline, who helped Joseph distribute the first load of panties and pads. We agreed to distribute them after church on Sunday. I figured I better count them to know how many we could allow for each girl.

First, I lugged all the bags of reusable menstrual pads from the container to my tent. into my tent. More than 600 pads. I don’t think my brain works that well in the heat, though. I lined them up in piles of five to make the task easier, counted one load, and repacked most of it before realizing I couldn’t remember the total.

Late in the afternoon, Peter, the senior teacher came back and talked with Joh and me about orphans. They agreed that we should focus on females. Joh recited a quote, though I don’t know who said it first—“When you educate a woman, you educate a family.” They believe helping girls will help the community, and they are anxious and willing to help ASAH do this. They see orphans as a future burden to the community or the country—without parental support and education, they may turn to crime, robbing, dealing drugs, or prostitution.

What prevents girls from going to school:

1. Some children have no clothing at all. Some may have clothing, but no soap to wash them and are embarrassed by their grimy or torn clothes.

2. Some don’t attend because they are kept busy all day fetching water, grinding grain, taking care of the younger children and babies. Some may come for a while, and then be kept home. After too many absences, they feel embarrassed to return.

3. Some families are so poor or so neglectful that the children may come to school, returning home after one only to find that there is no food left from lunch—their only meal of the day. After a few days of this, they stay home.

4. Some children in the village are disabled, blind, and deaf.

5. Girls are often forced to marry at puberty—twelve to fifteen years old. So they drop out. Or their fathers, who make these decisions, don’t think it’s necessary to educate them, since they will marry out of the family.

6. Many families are illiterate themselves and don’t see the value of education.

7. Some girls don’t attend because they are never free in the day—after four to six hours in school, they return home and work until bedtime. No time to read or study or play. Or they may be kept home on washing day.

After dinner, the clinic staff watched our documentary, African Soul, American Heart, in the dining hall. They were a rowdy audience—gesturing and exclaiming when they recognized people and places. The clinic guard, Geu, was there to see himself in the film. Before the war, he was a renowned wrestler in Southern Sudan. He’s the man with the pink shirt and the pipe in my photo exhibit. When the movie showed the old news footage of starving children, there were gasps and sighs. Some of the staff had been those starving children. They laughed when Joseph dipped a container into a hole full of water and commented that it looked dirty today because he was coming from America—one man said—it looked good then, just as Joseph commented, “But then it was like gold.” That brought a laugh.

3 responses to “Day Two in Duk Payuel

  1. “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).” – Fanti

    This is an African quote attributed to the Fante(i) people of Ghana. I heard Greg Mortenson use it recently and he (erroneously?) attributed it to MLK.

    Regardless, I believe it to be very true.


  2. When we were at the school in 2008, Norwegian Peoples Aid was providing uniforms (a dress for the girls) and noon meals for orphans to address a couple of the problems that you cite. Is that still happening?

  3. NPA is no longer providing food to the school, or uniforms. A few girls have uniforms, though most of them are pretty tattered. WFP (World Food Program) does supply food to the school, but as far as I can tell, they are not providing a daily meal. Sacks of grain were in one of the classrooms, but the teacher said they feed them only during exam times, when they are there for a longer day.

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