DAY NINE in Duk Payuel

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday—no school today or Friday. The schoolteachers are helping the clinic with the assessment of children ages six months to 59 months. They measured height and weight and other criteria to determine the extent of malnourishment in this age group. Preliminary results showed about 20 % of the young children are severely malnourished. The clinic will use this information to appeal to NGOs like World Food Program for nutrition supplementation.

A group of girls arrived once again to draw and paint. It was wonderful to see the chose their paper and paints or markets and spread themselves around the clinic compound: some on the concrete porches of the tents that surround the open area near the dining hall and some on plastic chairs scavenged from here and there. There’s a shortage of chairs at the clinic. The colorful plastic chairs are routinely in motion, carried from the dining hall, to the outdoors, to the clinic, to the tent porches—wherever they’re needed. After the girls helped me put away the supplies, many of them gave me their drawings with their names written on them, and many of them wrote “Love.”

Joh Deng said that some of the girls who came for the art classes don’t attend primary school, yet they have come for this. As they worked, some of the clinic staff stopped to talk with them and admire their art. Like all children, many of these girls have talents, but here there is virtually no opportunity to express them. Girls who don’t attend school have nothing pleasurable to keep them busy that also engages their minds, which Joh believes is critical to changing the future for their community. And then he said, “Those who believe in forced marriage should watch out—Debra is coming. She will change things.”

This second visit to the village has confirmed my resolve to follow through and address these needs. ASAH has raised their hopes, but we’ve been slow in bringing the boarding school to life. Insecurity in Sudan, the difficult economy in the US, and other things have conspired to slow this part of our work. But now is the time. Joh believes that a boarding school for female orphans will set an example and will cause village mothers, even if illiterate themselves, to strive for their daughters to have chances like this. If girls have an opportunity to be educated, the village will change.

Mid-afternoon, a group of girls from Patuenoi stopped by wanting underpants. I was sorry to disappointment them. The panties were long gone. All I could tell them was that ASAH would send more after the referendum. Imagine waiting two months for one or two pair of panties.

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