A View of South Sudan

Many of us are facing times of financial pressure. Yet we are also aware that much of the world lives in extreme poverty.  We want to help - but we'd like to have the assurance that the money we give is being put to the best possible use.

In December 2011, I had the privilege of accompanying Matt Parker, Vice President of Operations for Kids Alive International, on a visit to a Children’s Home that is supported by Kids Alive International in Wau, South Sudan.

For decades, Sudan has been wracked by famine and civil war. The government regime, based in the city of Khartoum, conducted a sustained campaign of aggressive repression of the population in the south, based largely on longstanding ethnic and religious tensions. This resulted in the south of Sudan having some of the worst rates of infant mortality, malnutrition and inadequate education in the world. In July 2011, the south separated from the north, forming the new country of South Sudan. But poverty and ethnic unrest remain in South Sudan, causing untold misery.

The Boys' Home I visited in Wau - the only residential children's home in the town – provides a safe, caring environment for twelve boys. These children have been rescued from a life on the streets, where every day is struggle for survival in the shanty town market places; where solvent abuse is rife; and where many young lives slip into a knife-wielding, lawless existence, vulnerable and lost.

In contrast, the boys in the Home are happy and secure, living in a successful extended family environment, with two bedrooms, the home manager's office, and a multi-purpose room. Outside there is a shaded shelter functioning as the  kitchen and  a single small pit latrine and 'shower' room. Boys rest, chat, wash their clothes and even study in the shade provided by shelters. Water used at the home is fetched by the boys from a local well using plastic containers and a wheelbarrow. The boys make their own entertainment; there is no television, no computer, no cinema, no pocket money to spend. Yet, here in South Sudan, these are some of the fortunate ones. There are hundreds of other kids in Wau - and many thousands across South Sudan - for whom a loving home, nutritious food, and access to an education is just a dream.

It was encouraging to see the impact the Home is having. And the change in the lives of these boys was evident in an incident that took place on a trip that we made with them one afternoon.

We were sat in the shade of a teak plantation a few miles out of Wau, grateful for the mottled shade provided by the trees after playing a game of football on a patch of open ground in the intense heat.We had started on a lunch of rice, beans and some lumps of meat and bread, when I noticed some of the boys get up and go over to some other boys that had appeared earlier, four local lads drawn by the noise of the football match.Barefoot and dressed in grubby excuses for clothes, the difference between the newcomers and our boys was self-evident.And what were 'our' boys doing?Sharing their lunch with their new friends. Unprompted.Boys that had known for themselves what it was like to be hungry and have nothing, now sharing and giving something of the love and care that they themselves had received through the work of the Kids Alive Children’s Home in Wau, South Sudan.

Posted on January 16th 2012

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