Growing season

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

Way To Go, Angelina!

Ron’s been doing most of the blogging these days, and I couldn’t help but notice the same woman in one of his posts as in one my earlier ones. That’s Angelina on the left, holding her baby. She was one of the first students in our

Students in the women's literacy class at Rhumathoi Community Center examine a corrected exercise book.
Students in the women’s literacy class at Rhumathoi Community Center examine a corrected exercise book.

community center’s women’s literacy class. She also spoke eloquently how women, especially widows, were sacrificing their income-producing time (mainly gathering and selling firewood in the market) to go to class.

And here she is (again on the left) in Ron’s post about the distribution of personal battery kits. I haven’t asked Angelina what she will do with her PBK, but I have a feeling that providing mobile-phone charging will be a part of her use. (South Sudan has leaped over land lines to cell phones. While I was there, people listened to the radio, stored music, and checked the internet on their phones as well as talked; mobiles are a valuable educational resource.) There’s a constant, growing market for charging phones.

Through her connections with the community center, now Angelina has a potential source of income beyond gathering firewood. Way to go, Angelina!

Multipurpose center customers

No More Living Like a Refugee

This World Refugee Day, we want to thank our executive director Franco Majok, and project managers Bol Thiik Riiny, Mou Riiny, and Manyang Malang, all who came to America as refugees and all who are now making a difference in their homeland. Keep up the good work, guys!

Looking back, looking forward on World Water Day

On World Water Day, it gives us some satisfaction to look back at our Pinterest board on our wells in South Sudan to see all we’ve accomplished. But there’s still so much to do. Some efforts haven’t worked out: we tried to affiliate with water.org, but Matt Damon’s group doesn’t work in South Sudan. And our wish list continues. We still need additional funding to complete the well at Malual-Chum; we’re still looking for affordable drillers for wells at our community center and clinic. Water is particularly time-critical for our community center, because our agricultural test plots will need irrigation, and the time to begin cultivation is soon.

But looking back in our archives, we found the photo of a boy drinking a bucket of muddy water that the people of Machartit could get only by lowering children into a pit. But not many weeks later, we had secured funding for a drill rig, and the jerrycans were lined up to collect the clean drinking water.

You, our donors, large and small, have made this happen. We’ll keep making this happen as we continue to work to bring education and opportunity, including the opportunity for health and well-being with a cool cup of water, in South Sudan.

 

 

 

A photo for International Women’s Day

Here’s our photo in honor of International Women’s Day: After she finished her literacy class at our community center, this woman gathered firewood to sell at the market.

 

Her daughter holds her mom’s schoolbag as they prepare for the walk home. Several women told us they have less time to gather firewood and prepare charcoal to sell at  the market because they are going to class. Nevertheless, they keep coming to learn to read and write.

On this Women’s Day, let us remember our commitment to provide education and opportunity for women and men in South Sudan, and that education is the key to greater economic opportunity.

Dancing for clean water

We had a wonderful time at the fundraiser organized by Trinity Baptist Church for Malual-Chum Project. There were so many highlights, including the traditional South Sudanese dancing headed up by our project manager Abuk Madut. That’s Abuk in the center of these photos.

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 Regina Ringador was the center-stage dancer in this segment:

 

 And thanks to drummer Mayuen Angara:

Mayuen drummingThanks again to the people of Trinity and those in and around Arlington for attending. Good attendance, great music, and substantial headway in raising money for clean water for South Sudan.

A 14-village, two-bull picnic

Here’s a slide show of our gift to the villages surrounding the Rhumathoi Community Center: two bulls and the feasting that followed. I had some of the beef. It was fantastic. So was the honor.

Teacher Training Is of Primary Importance

The teachers in Wunlang and Rhumathoi primary schools, although all from the area, have various backgrounds: some are secondary-school graduates, some are still in secondary school, and some are volunteers whose education is just barely ahead of their students. Teacher training is a continuing issue in South Sudan, even as the use of the South Sudan curriculum and syllabus grows. Teachers have to be prepared to teach it.

So our six-day teacher training was a refresher course in primary grammar. Teachers from both Wunlang and Rhumathoi attended, and ias Wunlang is a four-hour walk from Rhumathoi, we made accommodations available in our community center guest house.

Our teacher-training class met in one of our community-center rooms.

 

We were all learning as we went along, and we have realized that one exercise book for the trainer and providing exercise books for the students to copy into, while traditional and workable, wastes a lot of time. However, Kush Air, the three-times-a-week airline to Aweil, has a very strict baggage allowance of one bag weighing 20 kilos. Their definition of a carry-on is very small.(At the airport your trainer had to choose between her bag of training supplies and her bag of clothes, and she yanked a set of clothes out of her bag and stuffed it into her handbag; the other suitcase remained in Juba the whole time.) We will be exploring ways to get workbooks too all trainees in the future.

Because there was no way to transport workbooks for each trainee, teacher training involved a lot of copying from the board.

Because there was no way to transport workbooks for each trainee, teacher training involved a lot of copying from the board.

 

Teacher-training supplies included a nine-pound atlas, one of the few that includes the new country of the republic of South Sudan.

Teacher-training supplies included a nine-pound atlas, one of the few that includes the new country of the Republic of South Sudan.

 

We left the grammar books with the teachers so they could review. All teachers had areas in primary grammar that they wanted to study again.

We left the grammar books with the teachers so they could review. All teachers had areas in primary grammar that they wanted to study again.