Hope where there was war – The SVP in Sudan and South Sudan
Imagine your homeland being ravaged by war. Fighting breaks out, violence, crime, lawlessness. You flee your home and travel to a different country in search of safety. In that new country you are not allowed to receive status as a refugee meaning do not have any international rights to food or support usually given to people of refugee status.
You are forced to live and sleep in a makeshift tent, in dry barren conditions, with little food, shelter or clothing. It is unbearably hot in the day and bitterly cold at night. You are scared, tired, soul destroyed. You are not even allowed to practise your Christian faith in order to gain food from the government,
You keep in your heart the hope that one day you will be able to return to your home and country. This keeps you going, and one day, many years later, it does become possible. You gather together your small amount of belongings and your children, and begin to make your way, filled with hope and trepidation, back to your home country.
This is what happened to 4 million or so people displaced after decades of civil war in Sudan, when the country was torn apart and became two separate countries: Sudan (in the north) and South Sudan.
Millions of people fled South Sudan for the north, and were forced to settle in the desert in makeshift tents in Sudan. A strict Sudanese Muslim government ruled the country and many of the children and young people became soldiers and joined the militia as a form of survival.
When it became possible for these displaced people from South Sudan to return to their homes, they must have felt overjoyed. But when they returned to their villages they were filled with desolation. Their farms and houses had been burnt to the ground, the landscape was barren, the infrastructure had been destroyed so that there were no real roads or schools or hospitals and they realised they had left one life of hardship for another even worse.
However, there was hope.
The SVP had been active in the whole of unified Sudan from 1939. The country was divided by war from 1953, and in 1986 they set up help centres in the north. Baby feeding clinics still feed more than 10,000 famished and malnourished babies and children’s every day. Health clinics run by the SVP employ staff and allow local people who cannot travel far to receive medical support near to the camps where they are living. Medical help is crucial to any community, but particularly where people are packed together in squalid basic conditions the care. The medicine received thanks to the SVP was even more essential.
Cooking oil, flour and clean water were provided by the SVP to the camps, meaning that people had something to nourish themselves with.
All of this saved lives. And gave the people hope.
When the displaced people living in Sudan returned to the South the SVP saw the need to replicate these projects in South Sudan. They added to this microfinance loans and Vocational Training Centres which allowed people the means to build their lives, and their country.
Today, in both Sudan and South Sudan there are hundreds of agriculture projects, like those growing and selling medicinal plants, sewing and tailoring businesses, educational projects, and building and construction businesses being run by South Sudanese people allowing them to support themselves all because of a microloan from the SVP which allowed them the initial money they needed to get started.
The vocational training Vocational Training Centres train both young men and young women. This is essential because women are the hub of the family. The economic wellbeing of the family depends on the women being able to purchase food and put food on the table for her husband and children if a woman’s husband has a sickness or an addiction of some kind. It is down to her to make the additional money needed in order to put food on the table. Because women and girls now receive training they are more empowered to support their families, ensuring security for her children.
Betram Kuol, director of projects in South Sudan SVP describes how: “At one Vocational Training Centre women are even training in construction work, proving that old gender stereotypes are being broken down”.
There is still a great deal of poverty and the SVP is still running some camps for Internally Displaced people outside the city of Juba.
However, there is hope of a better life.
That better life for millions of Sundanese and South Sudanese people depends on the prayers and donations of members and the public in England and Wales which is twinned with Sudan and South Sudan.
As a result of demands for money to help with other disasters in our world recently we are desperately short on funds and may have to reduce the number of people we can help in Sudan and South Sudan. This will affect medical support, water and baby feeding.
If you would like to donate to the projects the SVP runs in both countries, please visit www.svp.org.uk, contact your local SVP member or Twinnage officer, or telephone 020 7703 3030.
Thank you. Every penny brings hope.