Monday, February 24, 2014

Studying South Sudan

As some of you know, I work at an international hunger relief organization called Stop Hunger Now and I volunteer with an organization called RESULTS.  Over the past few weeks, both organizations have had me thinking about a country that most people don't think about on a daily basis...South Sudan. You may have heard about the country recently on the news...the government take-over...the fighting...the internally displaced people...though the news doesn't post about it anymore, their problems have not yet gone away.

The village of Old Fangak
At Stop Hunger Now, we primarily have volunteers package meals that we ship internationally in to school feeding programs, but in the past few years, we've been working on a special project in South Sudan.  In 2011, our founder, Ray Buchanan, took at trip to a small village called Old Fangak to see their situation.  They have a resident physician there named Jill Seaman who has been doing amazing work in the country for over 25 years now. Old Fangak is a very small town...about 1,000 people...and it's main draw is Jill's medical clinic.  The village used to be a main trading hub but after multiple floodings, the town withered down to almost nothing. They live in small mud huts and they have hardly any access to education. It's a grim situation.

School under the trees
RESULTS major push this month is the Global Partnership for Education. The GPE is the only multilateral partnership devoted to getting all children, especially girls, in to school around the world.  Our local group decided to research different countries in the GPE and because of my involvement with the Old Fangak project, I chose to look in to South Sudan.  After doing the research I found that the GPE started working with South Sudan in 2011. I looked in to the report and found some shocking figures. Out of the whole country, only 42.9% of children are enrolled in primary school.  Less than half. That's insane! And only 1.9% of girls are in secondary school with only a little over half of their teachers being trained.  That just broke my heart. How can you pull a nation out of poverty with over half of the population not even receiving a primary school education? You can't. It's impossible. As I read on I learned that 1 in 3 children in the country are stunted due to malnutrition.  Because of this, I know that Stop Hunger Now is working in the right place.

A woman sifting for Plumpy Nut that dropped on the ground
When Stop Hunger Now picked up the project, their plan was to deliver a fence for the medical clinic, a completed women's center (they had a building but no roof), a school, teacher training, and an agricultural program to make the village self-sustaining.  We're still in the works with this project, but after the recent fighting, things became very urgent. This tiny village of 1,000 is now over 10,000 and counting. Refugees fled from all over the country to the town that they heard was 1. peaceful and 2. had a great medical clinic. So now they are running out of food and resources.

My job over the next few weeks is to kick up the campaign for South Sudan. I'm collecting images and video, creating content, fundraising proposals and working to get the South Sudan crisis back on the world's radar. Personally, I feel that it's so important for people in developed countries, who were born in to such privilege, to do something for those that were not so lucky. So I want to encourage every one of my readers to do something about this. So what can you do?

1. Learn about it - Search for information on the country and the current crisis...get informed. Check out resources such as the Alaska Sudan Medical Project, BBC, and the UN.

2. Share it - Tweet about it, post about it, blog about it, tell friends and family about it...but most of all, just raise awareness of this crisis. People don't hear about it on the news anymore so now they've forgotten about it.  So let's bring the cause back to light.

Jill helping a child with kala-azar
3. Donate - Donate whatever you can to the cause. $5 is great, $50 is awesome, $100 is amazing!  If you have a specific charity you like that you know is working in South Sudan, perfect, but if not, consider donating to Stop Hunger Now (and make it "in honor" of the South Sudan Project), the Alaska Sudan Medical Project, or even the UN. Also ,if you know anyone who works for a company that might be able to donate medical supplies, school supplies, seeds, or anything that might help with the Old Fangak project, please let me know.

They are in desperate need, but yet there is so much hope. Old Fangak is a haven for these beautiful people, so let's strengthen it and create a village of educated, healthy people who can turn their lives around and make a difference in their country.

So that is the challenge I'm giving you today...ready...set...GO!

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