All the Trees of The Fields

There’s a beautiful image of a peaceful place in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 55:12: “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” VHSS executive director Franco Majok recently spent three days in our Rhumathoi Community Center, “enjoying the calm and fresh air.” He adds: “The biggest thing in Center right now is our borehole which providing clean water to local community.”

Rhumathoi center well 01 Jan. 2017Here we have four young ladies who don’t have to walk far distances for dirty water.

Rhumathoi center well 03 Jan. 2017I don’t know if they are going to school, but their chances, because they are using less time and energy to fill and carry those jerrycans, are greater.

  Franco has also planted 13 mango trees!

Rhumathoi Jan. 2017 01Here is a mango sapling, encircled by a fence of sticks, planted near one of the center’s meeting rooms.

Rhumathoi Jan 2017 02And here is one planted outside a building that is used as a guest house and as a storage shed for peanuts. A place of clean water, a place where there will be shade and mangoes . .. thanks to all those who have helped create this oasis in a remote part of South Sudan.

Looking Forward to 2017

If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one. — Mother Teresa

Many questions remain about South Sudan’s political and economic future. On the one hand, there has been no recent upsurge of violence. It was reported that New Year’s Eve was celebrated in Juba without any gunfire. On the other hand, hyperinflation and food insecurity remain in South Sudan. Education and clean water for all are elusive goals.

A small non-profit like ours looks at enormous problems that governments and international NGOs cannot overcome — and turns back to doing what it can do.

We aren’t able to provide massive distributions of emergency food. But we were able to provide aid to farmers to buy seed in 2016. And we were able to provide price supports at the market so the resulting crops could be sold at lower prices, while still give farmers a profit.   peanut harvest 04 2014We also, by building Wunlang School back in 2008, have provided a place where food supplies can be distributed. About 160 girls attending Wunlang School received sorghum, lentils, and cooking oil through a UNICEF program.   wunlang-school-girls-receiving-sorghum-may-2016 Girls’ literacy is still far behind boys’ (40 percent to 60 percent), but we have seen girls’ enrollment increase steadily in Wunlang since the school was built. Word of Wunlang School has spread. As other parts of South Sudan become too difficult to live in, families have come to Wunlang to give their children a chance at education. Even when children are hungry, reports field manager Yel Maduok Ngor, they still show up for school. wunlang-school-classroom-june-2016 Back in America, Thiou Village Project has raised enough money to enable us to provide school supplies and money for repairs. We also had a remarkably successful fundraising day for our Malual-Chum project. It is our goal to get a well drilled in this village this year. Then women and girls like this won’t have to haul up dirty water with a tin can.   Wells in Malual-Chum You can help with all these goals by making a donation. Then you will have done your part to bringing education and opportunity, despite all the obstacles, to remote parts of South Sudan.        

Still Dancing for Clean Water

This blog has been very quiet recently, but we’re back with new vigor. We still look to provide clean water for Malual-Chum Village, near the city of Tonj in South Sudan. This past Town Day in Arlington, Massachusetts, we had very encouraging results, thanks to our three dancers. Here’s our video. If you’d like to donate, just hop on over to our donation page. The ongoing strife in South Sudan means our work is not done. Help bring clean water to a people who will not otherwise have it.

Uniform results

At our last board meeting, the directors of Village Help for South Sudan decided that as a nonprofit we would not focus on building more buildings, but rather on programs and support for the institutions we’ve established. This means that we can be effective without having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to begin a project. We also observed that our first project, Wunlang School, has become a hub of education and security for the residents of Aweil County East, and it made sense to support the work going on there.

Our friends at St. Paul Lutheran Church have been faithful in raising money for school uniforms. This may not seem like a big deal, but in a country where uniforms are required, and a place where a uniform may be a child’s only decent piece of clothing, each uniform is a ticket to an education.

In our last effort, our uniforms were made by a local tailor and delivered by motorbike. This time, we have a small, but significant change. Here Joseph Deng Madhieu is negotiating with the seller of our uniform fabric.

fabric for wunlang school uniforms

And here are the uniforms being made in Rhumathoi, at our community center. In the background are tailors on foot-treadle sewing machines. In the foreground are four local women, trained by the tailors to sew on the buttons.

Rhumathoi women helping with uniforms

It seems like a small thing, four women sewing on buttons. But this was organized by our field staff themselves: no one flew in from overseas to tell them what to do. Our local leadership grows more empowered with every project. Now these women have a marketable skill they didn’t have before. And more children will be going to school. It’s these small, significant opportunities we will keep focused on at Village Help for South Sudan.

St. Paul Comes Through Again, Uniformly

new uniforms   Our friends at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arlington, MA, one of our first supporters, have come through again. As they report in their weekly update (scroll down and look at the right-hand column), they’re raising funds again to provide the students at Wunlang School with school uniforms. You might think this is a luxury with all the other suffering going on in South Sudan. But education is the key to the long-term solutions to this suffering. School uniforms are required; a family who can’t afford uniforms can’t and won’t send their kids to school. We source our uniforms locally, providing jobs and income for local tailors. Our last delivery was by motorbike, as the dirt roads were too muddy for larger vehicles. Transport_hired Our field director Yel Maduok Ngor (in the center, wearing tan) supervised the arrangement by sizes. Wunlang school uniforms distributed We’re so grateful to the people of St. Paul for providing this entrance into education and opportunity. The church is raising funds for this campaign until October 4.  

The light shines in the darkness

Things are pretty grim in many parts of South Sudan. Everyone, from the President of the United States on down, has an opinion about what should be done, but bringing peace and order to this new nation, which began with such promise, is a pretty tall order. And what can the average person do? This: bring malaria treatment to a village that had none. Save lives where malaria deaths were high.
Waiting for malaria treatment at Wunlang Primary Care Center

Waiting for malaria treatment at Wunlang Primary Care Center

At a community meeting in 2013 we were urged to staff Wunlang clinic because deaths from malaria were so high.
Women and children wait outside Wunlang Primary Care Clinic, designed by our field manager Yel Madouk.

Women and children wait outside Wunlang Primary Care Clinic, designed by our field manager Yel Madouk.

Even when things look grim, we can provide some hope.
wunlang clinic malaria 01

Our primary-care center can administer malaria medicine that will bring patients back to health.

No matter what twists and turns take place in the country, we still are providing help to the villages of South Sudan.

Some peanuts for World Food Day

It’s World Food Day todayand this year’s emphasis is on family farming. We have a community farm at our Rhumathoi Community Center, and we are pretty pleased with our first peanut harvest. .
Our peanut fields at harvest time.

Our peanut fields at harvest time.

Deng Madheiu, the Rhumathoi community-center manager, harvesting peanuts.

Deng Madheiu, the Rhumathoi community-center manager, harvesting peanuts.

Looks pretty good!

Looks pretty good!

peanut harvest 02 closeup 2014 VHSS executive director Franco Majok took these photos. He writes: “The big problem we have this year in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal and maybe for all South Sudan is starvation, which is alarming everyone.” The food we grow, and the support we can provide for those growing food, will provide some relief to this remote part of South Sudan.

From Village to Town Day

Arlington Town Day is part street fair, part welcome to newcomers, and a chance for Arlingtonians to get the word out about their favorite causes. So, of course, Village Help for South Sudan has a booth about our Malual-Chum project. Since project manager Peter Manyang Malang lives and works in Arlington, and his children go to Arlington schools, all sorts of people stopped by: customers from Trader Joe’s, where Manyang is a popular crew member, his kids’ teachers, and friends from school, sports, and summer recreation programs and their families.

Peter Manyang Malang, manager of Malual-Chum project, chats with those stopping by his Arlington Town Day booth.

Peter Manyang Malang, manager of Malual-Chum project, chats with those stopping by his Arlington Town Day booth.

Many were surprised to learn that their friends’ family back in Africa doesn’t have clean water to drink. But we noticed that as Arlington grows more diverse, several of those who stopped by could identify personally with our project; they had the same situation in their homeland. Our donation jar filled up nicely, and many took our cards and bookmarks to learn more about the program.

Of course, the kids had to do Town Day, too: some bouncy house, some face painting, some fried dough and kettle corn. It was a great day to raise awareness from town to village and back again.

What's Town Day without some face painting?

What’s Town Day without some face painting?

Growing season


It’s been a while since we’ve posted! Communications to the remote parts of South Sudan where we work have not improved a lot; it’s difficult to get photos out. But executive director Franco Majok just returned from a visit and brought some great ones. The stateside directors of Village Help for South Sudan don’t travel over constantly. Our budget goes to our programs. We also want to promote the model of self-sufficiency: we give the grants and start a project rolling. We train community leaders and teach them how to be accountable. And we get results like this:
sorghum rhumathoi summer 2014

A thriving stand of sorghum in the fields that we last saw were marked out for agricultural plots at the Rhumathoi Community Center, with community leaders meeting in the shade.

sorghum 03 rhumathoi summer 2014

Our guest house surrounded by crops.

gardening rhumathoi 02 summer 20134

Akot, the center’s caretaker, working in the newly established peanut field.

charging cell phones rhumathoi summer 2014 - Copy

A cell-phone charging station. Income from charging villagers’ cell phones and from selling crops goes toward funding community center programs.

charger hookup rhumathoi summer 2014

The charging station setup. Solar power is stored in the big black batteries. Ron will blog in more technical detail.

no entrance community center rhumathoi summer 2014

“No entrance * Danger” With the power of electricity just coming to Rhumathoi, the center wants to keep people safe.

deng madhieu manager rhumathoi summer 2014

Deng Madhieu, our new community-center manager. Yel, our former manager, is going to school in Grenada!

accounting 05

Deng is faithfully keeping accounts of the center’s income and expenses. When we train our managers in this kind of record-keeping, the skill can be passed on to others, creating sound business practices throughout the region.

sorghum 02 rhumathoi summer 2014

More and more internally-displaced persons are arriving in Aweil County East as the conflicts in South Sudan continue to drag on. We are glad to provide an oasis of teaching and learning.