Jan 2008 Trip to Sudan
In January 2008 several teams working with CASS made the trip into Sudan to gather information, check on the progress of existing projects, and lay the groundwork for starting new projects. The first team consisted of MP Carolyn Bennet (the former Health Minister), Laura Tripp (a London Lawyer), Allison Dale (Student) and Yoni Levitan (STAND- a university student group concerned with Darfur). This trip primarily was an "information" gathering trip - visiting the schools, the medical clinic, attending community celebrations and staying overnight at the refugee camp. MP Irwin Cottler, who had also planned to participate in this trip, was hospitalized in Israel just before and was unable to come.
The second team consisted of Alex Lau (focus on the water project, and as a board member of the Y, was looking into establishing scholarships for some of the students to attend high school), Janet Tufts- Director the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (she took care of the medical clinic and the delivery of the medicines), and Ann Wagner (STAND).
The final team, stayed for 2 weeks in Sudan and consisted of Kathy Mueller (the A-Channel), Denise Pelley, Lucy Ogletree and Lynn Blumas. Denise and Lucy helped to run a music and art camp for the children (it is their "summer" holidays), and Lynn was the resident photographer. All 4 have been to Sudan previously and were part of the "Passion for Sudan" team last year.
The Canada School is up and running. When we arrived it was being used as the county wide examination centre for the teachers. The Education Ministry was testing the proficiency of the teachers, and those that did not pass would have to go for further training. On the first day we arrived, just the male teachers were being tested (over 600 of them) from Aweil East County. Two weeks later the female teachers were to be tested ( just under 200 teachers from the whole Province- made up of 5 counties.) The teachers would then receive renumeration upon completion, and are currently being paid $500/month from the Ministry.
The school itself was in good condition. Though we had been told it had been finished, there were a few things still to be done (i.e. the some of the walls and some of the classroom floors had not been finished). This was due to the fact that some of the cement had been lent to another project, and the builder was waiting for it to be replaced. (Cement supply had been disrupted due to some fighting around the border areas). Though not finished (to our liking) the school is fully operational and has desks and chairs used by the students. It operates as a primary school during the school year (April to Dec.) in the morning, and the secondary school in the afternoon. The community uses the school as the central school for the county (as evidenced by the testing) and has requested all future schools be constructed similarly to the Canada School. (Up until the Canada School was built, school construction used burnt bricks, locally made). The main difference in construction of the school was the prefabrication of the frame, and the use of cement blocks, manually made.
The DOR School (Diocese of Rumbeck) construction was delayed for 2 years after the initial money was sent. As a result, the costs had increased so, it was decided to "decrease" what was built. Four classrooms were built, latrines and a fence instead of the 8 classrooms originally planned. In January 2007 last year, the supplies arrived for the school as we had just arrived.
When we arrived in January 2008, we found that the CASS portion of the school had been finished (the classroom block of 4 classrooms, the fence and 2 latrines) and that the construction of the decreased school had helped DOR to leverage money from UNICEF to complete the school. While there, builders had just arrived to complete the other 4 classrooms, a kitchen, an office and a storeroom block. A foundation was also being laid to construct a kindergarten.
UNICEF has also agreed to donate classroom furniture to the DOR school, but only for the 4 classrooms that CASS has constructed. (we think this is mainly because of the fact that they have been completed).
Last year we visited 2 regions that had seen an influx of refugees fleeing from Darfur. One village, Rimrol, had an estimated 2000 new people, and Malakal was a created village of 9,000 refugees when we visited in Jan 2007. IOM (International Organization for Migration... the UN body helping to relocate returnees) estimated that a total number of close to 100,000 refugees and returnees came through Aweil East. Refugees are those coming from Darfur, and returnees are those coming from around Khartoum and the northern refugee camps. The 100,000 was roughly 50% Darfur refugees and 50% northern returnees.
In Jan 2008, we went to visit the same 2 villages, but there had been some recent fighting between the north and the south, and as a result, Malakal no longer existed. (It was not known how many people were killed in the fighting, but all the families in that village fled south to areas of increased safety. The village of Rimrol saw another estimated 500 families arrive due to the recent fighting. The skirmishes between the north and the south were mainly due to the fact that Feb/March will see a border committee between the north and south arrive to assess the situation and make recommendations on the location of the border lines . The placement of the border between the north and south is in dispute and as a result both sides are trying to position themselves as the "owners" of the area before that decision is made.
The situation of the refugees in Rimrol is still grim, as the new arrivals arrived with next to nothing and the local community was finding it difficult coping with the extra families. The local community was helping as much as possible, but was already stretched to the limit with the 2000 refugees who had arrived the year previous. During our visit we were able to direct William Ater to provide goats (the equivalent of a goat herd) to the new families from Abuk's Herd! They were delivered after we had left.
Last year Glen Pearson had requested money for the IOM to help with the refugees. It was only upon meeting with the IOM officials in Sudan did we hear the the Canadian Government has been active and consulting with the IOM on a budget for the area (some of it is to be targeted to Rimrol) and there was a good possibility it would come through. It was in February that we heard that it had been approved - through the Free Press following up directly with the IOM we heard that $3 million will be given in March.
Through Health Partners international, physician's travel packs were donated and were delivered by those going over. A total of 8 boxes were directly delivered. The medicine in the 8 boxes is valued at $20,000 (each travel pack is worth $5000 and consists of 2 cartons of medicine). The medicine was overwhelming received as the clinic had run out of some kinds of medicine and was waiting for the next shipment, which had been delayed due to rains. The types of medicine were specifically geared to the "African" need, so all the medicine will be put to good use. Follow the link for several stories about the use of the supplies in the medical clinic.
The main new project that we are looking at undertaking was the ability to provide clean drinking water to the community. Bob Dell, the founder of the "Water school" was in Uganda visiting another project site and so met up with us in Nairobi to go into Sudan. He however became quite ill and was unable to travel with us. Alex Lau took upon the task of testing the various water points and helping to meet with community leaders to see about the viability of the project. At this point, we have approval of the community and are putting together a draft project proposal. We should have this done by the end of March as we are still waiting some transportation costs and working on partnering with AMURT and the DOR to deliver the project. More information on the process can be found at The Water School, and also in the CASS November Newsletter.