Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hope and Challenges

My early May visit to Sudan was both exhilarating and painful. Our current challenges include unstable political conditions as the January 2011 referendum looms and the continuing difficulty of working with broken communities in the Khartoum IDP areas where it is often “every man for himself”. Then there is the ongoing challenge of working in Kadugli in the Nuba Mountains where there is an almost complete lack of government provision of education for children and of health care for those who are unable to pay for it.

We also have administrative challenges as Together for Sudan continues --for financial reasons -- to operate with at least one employee too few in both our Khartoum and Kadugli offices. I am deeply grateful to our Sudanese colleagues for their loyalty and to Country Coordinator Neimat Hussein for her dedicated and inspiring leadership.

Other challenges include inadequate funding for the Women’s Literacy Project and the Teacher Training Project. To keep teacher training active we have melded its work in the Khartoum area with the Basic School Scholarships Project and while in Khartoum I attended the first session of teacher training for selected teachers from ten self-help basic schools in the settlements for displaced people which surround Khartoum.

While in Kadugli I attended a teacher training course dedicated to primary health care and learned how to put a splint on a broken leg. The enthusiasm and creativity of the 25 teachers attending the course was inspiring. I was also able to meet with a few of our university graduates now working back in their home territory. Then, in a meeting with Ministry of Education officials, TfS’s Deputy Country Coordinator Victor Gali Thomas and I were pressed to train their primary and secondary school teachers. The request underscores a long standing crisis of under educated teachers which local authorities are unable to resolve due to lack of funding from Khartoum.

Because I was unable to reach Sudan on schedule – due to volcanic ash over Europe – I missed a phenomenal Eye Care Outreach at Abu Gebeiha, some 10 hours by dirt track from Kadugli. Sadly (from my standpoint only) the outreach could not be rescheduled due to onset of the rainy season during which travel outside Kadugli becomes virtually impossible. During the outreach the eyes of 1,063 people were examined, 806 were given medication, 252 were operated on for cataract, 292 were given reading glasses and ten individuals (mainly children) were referred for further medical help in Khartoum. One person told the Eye Care team that, “We don’t have money for medical help and we asked God to send you.” After telling me this, TfS Field Representative Ibrahim Ahmed Jabir added “I feel proud, grateful and happy as a result of our work.”

So, despite all difficulties, I remain encouraged by:

*Strong leadership in both our Khartoum and Kadugli offices, including dedicated employees in both offices who believe in their work and are even willing to suffer hardship to keep it going;

*Increased opportunity to expand TfS work in the Nuba Mountains;

*Loyal institutional and individual donors who are doing all they can during a time of international financial difficulties to supply the funding we need;

*Growing recognition among Sudanese friends and TfS Patrons that TfS will be able to continue to serve and,

*The most impressive group of TfS Trustees we have ever had including the best cooperation we have experienced to date in areas of management and fundraising.

We are Christians and Muslims working, as always, TOGETHER FOR SUDAN.


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