Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Another Visit To Sudan

On Sunday, 3 May, I leave Virginia for Sudan, arriving in Khartoum at 3:15 a.m. on 5 May after a several hour stopover in London. Like many people, I endure rather than enjoy long flights and always find it near impossible to sleep. On these at least twice yearly visits, I bring along a good book or two and also use the time to mull over the work ahead. Usually I don’t talk much to my seatmates as most people find it hard to understand why anyone would voluntarily go to Sudan. So it would be too complicated to tell them that this is my 23rd return since I was expelled in late 1998.

This time I’ll spend a few days in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan, in order to monitor TfS educational and educational support projects, talk to government officials and meet the two new staff members in our four person office. I’ll also call on representatives of other charities and UN agencies with which we cooperate. And every night I’ll eat either beans or bread and peanut butter (this latter carried in by me) for supper. Although life in Kadugli is now even more expensive than Khartoum, there is little food in the area and many people are chronically hungry. But sitting after dark in the street market with the generators roaring in the background is always a magical experience, a feeling of solidarity with an “end of the earth” place where human needs are enormous and anything you can do is appreciated.

In Khartoum, where I’ll spend most of my time, life is much more up market. There are grand hotels and restaurants, most very recent, embassies and high rise buildings and too much traffic. I’ll spend a lot of time in the Together for Sudan office with our nine employees and even more time battling traffic to call on potential funders including embassies and international organizations. I’ll attend an Eye Care Outreach and the graduation of our first group of public health trainees in the IDP settlements and have meetings with some of our Sudanese Patrons. And I’ll do a bit of office encouragement and management and catch up with friends. After midnight on 14 May I’ll board a flight for London and then another for the US, chasing the sun, so that it will still be 14 May when I arrive in Virginia. I’m always both sad and relieved to leave Sudan – a country whose diverse people are very kind and hospitable and captured my heart over a decade ago.

Lillian Craig-Harris

Monday, 13 April 2009

Eye Care Outreach and Blindness Prevention in the Khartoum Area Squatter Settlements

The Khartoum office is busy churning out reports these days and another which I read this week filled me with particular satisfaction. What can you say about a project which prevents blindness, restores sight, enables people to learn to read and helps unite people in service to one another?

Up to three million people now live in the settlements for displaced persons which surround the increasingly modern city of Khartoum. The majority have no access to education, health care or secure livelihood.

In 2002 Together for Sudan set up an Eye Care Outreach Project led by Sudanese ophthalmologist Dr. Nabila Radi. Targeting children, women and the elderly, that effort has now benefitted well over 25,000 people through eye examinations, eye glasses, medications and eye surgeries. The Eye Care Outreach is a particularly satisfactory sort of charity work because its benefits are so quickly obvious. After all, if you can’t see you are unlikely to learn to read and glasses can usually fix that problem. Or put another way, if you have ever misplaced your glasses (as I do regularly) or have suffered from an eye infection or other condition which threatens or impeded your sight --- well, we all get the point.

This latest Eye Care Project report reminded me that TfS has learned many lessons from our work in this area. Among the most important are that eye disease and eye injury are two of the greatest threats to health and livelihood in the settlements for the displaced, that community cooperation is crucial to the outreach and that provision of eye care information to communities is vital.

A simple pair of glasses can provide a mother with the ability to sew and thus to support her children. Eye glasses can restore meaning to life. I recall a recent outreach when an old man, practically weeping with gratitude, thought to thank me for the gift of a used pair of reading glasses. I rejoice that this project does so much good and earns so much goodwill for Together for Sudan.

Lillian Craig-Harris

Training Teachers to Train Other Teachers in the Nuba Mountains

This week I read a report from the TfS office in Khartoum about teaching teachers to become trainers of other teachers in the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan. That ought to be simple because Nuba people are clamouring for education of all sorts. But life in the Nuba Mountains is difficult for many reasons and this time we came up against the weather when delay in a funding transfer took us into the July to October rainy season.

When it rains in the Nuba Mountains everyone and everything bogs down; even tractors are often unable to get through the mud. So training had to be rescheduled for November/December 2008 when 25 kindergarten teachers, all women, were finally taught training techniques, administrative skills, preparation and use of teaching aids, how to identify possibly useful materials, etc. This may sound simple to those who have enjoyed the benefits of well equipped schools and university trained teachers. And so it is: simple, effective and efficient. So efficient, as the report revealed, that two months after the training some of the participants had already set themselves up as teacher trainers and were teaching other teachers how to become teacher trainers.

Things don’t usually happen this quickly in Sudan and the reports writer in our Khartoum office allowed himself a bit of rather unrestrained rejoicing. The impact of the training was, he said, “good news”, in fact it was “a triumph for the people of the Nuba Mountains”, as well as “a milestone to our endeavor to upgrade education in the region” and “a beginning which makes us hopeful that more work will follow”. Well, that sums up fairly well how I feel, too.

Lillian Craig-Harris

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Banners to Download from our Website

Once again the website has been updated and now includes downloadable banner images. These are designed to link back to our site. We would be very grateful for the support of anyone displaying a banner on their website or blogsite. All the images on the banner download page are of work that TFS does and are coupled to a word that defines an aspect of what we do and you could join in with. Please display one and show your support for our work. I placed the hope banner on the blog and put two here to show you what our banners look like.

Check the rest out on our website. With this link - Banner download page - Webmaster.

Together for Sudan Care Banner

Together for Sudan Vision Banner