Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Another Visit to Sudan

My evening flight from Washington Dulles to London on 3 May was followed by a six hour layover after which I flew on to Khartoum via Beirut, in total 22 hours of travelling. British Ambassador Rosalind Marsden, Together for Sudan Trustee and my long suffering hostess for the next two weeks, kindly sent a car to pick me up at the Khartoum airport by which time it was early morning of 5 May local time. I managed four hours sleep before Country Coordinator Neimat Hussein showed up for several hours of briefing and discussion. Despite the exhaustion I was, as always, exhilarated to be back in Sudan. And I am, of course, very grateful to Neimat and her colleagues in both Khartoum and Kadugli for putting up with my bi-annual fact finding missions which are very disruptive of their work!
Over the next several days Neimat and I did the rounds of local patrons and partners and international funding charities, thanking those which support Together for Sudan and seeking new partnerships. I also spend hours in the TfS Khartoum office talking to staff members and receiving visitors including Dr. Nabila Radi who runs our Eye Care Outreach. I have learned to love and sometimes to resist Dr. Nabila because she knows that those who “look on suffering” with the intention of helping are often greatly blessed and therefore usually insists that I go with her to visit those who are dying, diseased, deformed by leprosy or otherwise in a position to teach me more about compassion. I’ve learned a lot from her.

Another highlight of my Khartoum visit was attending the graduation of 127 Community Health Care Workers, over 100 of them women, in a makeshift tent in one of the settlements for the displaced outside Khartoum. When the Sudanese are happy they dance – and we did, celebrating the graduates’ new ability to contribute to their communities as well as support themselves and their children.
This visit was dominated by opposition from the government’s Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) to my planned visit to the TfS sub-office in Kadugli, capital of the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan. But after several days delay, which required that I extend my stay in Sudan, and having written a letter of apology for obtaining my visa from the Sudanese Embassy in Washington rather than from HAC (!), I was eventually allowed to travel to Kadugli. I am enormously grateful to TfS Office Manager Saudi Abdel Rahman for the hours he spend at HAC headquarters and the patience which he displayed.
When finally allowed to fly to the Nuba Mountains, Neimat and I spent four days in Kadugli getting to know Field Representative Ibrahim Ahmed Jabir and Field Coordinator Saleem Musa, both new employees since my last visit to Kadugli in early 2008. I was delighted to see how well they are working together. We arrived to find 25 community leaders, 10 of them women, from the countryside outside Kadugli engrossed in a course in Primary Health Care. All are members of “development committees” in their home areas. Neimat and I called on the Ministries of Health and Education where we were warmly greeted and asked to expand our training of teachers and community workers. At the Kadugli Hospital we were thanked for the TfS Eye Care Outreach which has resulted in the opening of an Ophthalmology Centre there. (The newly hired ophthalmologist was in Khartoum trying to raise money to run the centre!) Other highlights of the visit were visiting some of the now more than 30 young women put through university by TfS who are now back in the Nuba Mountains as teachers, health workers and government and INGO employees. As always, I felt blessed to be part of a growing work which is helping hundreds of individuals improve their lives. For further information see the June Together for Sudan Newsletter.

Lillian Craig-Harris