Two days ago, the United States of America celebrated 239 years of independence. Our years have not been unmarked by violence and strife, nor have the freedoms promised to all been realized by all our citizens, yet we continue to make progress in our recognition of the humanity of all our people in spite of differences in religion, ideology, skin color, gender, economic status, education, and many other factors that divide us. Our children can expect to go to school and have access to health care. We take for granted the clean water that flows from taps across our country, though we tend not to be good stewards of this largess until it is threatened. Some days we take one step forward and two back, but from time to time we take gigantic leaps. Whether that direction is forward or backwards is often in the eye of the beholder.
On July 9th, the Republic of South Sudan will recognize four years of independence. This won’t be a time of celebration for its citizens, a million and a half of whom are displaced in refugee camps across South Sudan, in Kenya, Uganda and other places. Conditions in many of the camps are horrific. Women and young girls report rapes, cholera outbreaks are frequent and there are many other causes of suffering, illness, and death – malaria, malnutrition, typhoid, inadequate sanitation, flooding, and limited medical care. Millions do not have enough to eat.
There is no sign of resolution to this fighting which falls mostly between ethnic and politicial lines between government troops and fighters aligned with the President, Salva Kiir and rebel troops aligned with the former Vice-President, Riek Machar. Neither leader has had any success in resolving the conflict or alleviating the suffering of the innocent citizens of their country.
Still, many NGOs, small and large, continue their missions. ASAH is amongst them. The John Dau Foundation is another. Both groups had programs in Duk Payuel, Jonglei State, South Sudan. JDF operated the Lost Boys Clinic and Hospital, and African Soul, American Heart operated the ASAH School for Orphaned Girls. Jonglei is the largest of the states, and is home to both Dinka and Nuer tribes. When the conflict reached Duk County in February 2014, all the villagers, including staff, patients, students, and families ran for their lives, repeating the now-familiar exodus of the Lost Boys years earlier.
JDF continues serving sick, injured, and malnourished men, women, and children in refugee camps. ASAH continues serving our students across the southern border to Uganda where we feed, clothe, and house them, provide their medical care and emotional support, as well as uniforms, books, and fees to attend local schools. Like the people whose ancestors originated in Duk County, we had hoped to return to our beautiful compound in Duk Payuel, built with the loving hands of local residents, and providing a beacon of hope for the villages in the county. Unfortunately, the situation there has gone from bad to worse. Soldiers from the SPLA, the government ranks who have been charged with protection of that area, have recently destroyed or badly damaged the remaining hospital and clinic buildings at the JDF clinic, at the ASAH School for Orphaned Girls as well as other school buildings and a church built by nonprofit organizations.
ASAH’s mission is to Protect, Educate, and Empower, and we recognize that without the ability to PROTECT our students, we won’t be able to accomplish the rest of our mission. Thus, ASAH will be in Uganda until there is a real and lasting peace for the citizens of South Sudan, investment by the government in infrastructure such as roads, schools, and clinics, and support for the losses of organizations who must rebuild in order to resume operations in locations such as Duk Payuel.
ASAH is poised to take our program to the next level of professionalism. We must invest in improvements to our facility, and we must invest in our staff to ensure that we have the best available to lead and teach our students, and to guide them as future leaders. They will be ready to help South Sudan overcome its history of death and destruction so that the children of tomorrow will not inherit this same terrible legacy.
Your contribution now will enable ASAH to take the next step to upgrade our electricity with solar backup so that our students can study at night, to improve our water system so that our girls don’t have to carry water on their heads from the well, which is a 15-minute walk from our home, and to ensure that we have the best-qualified professional staff overseeing the development of these future leaders.
If you would like additional information, call or email Deb.