Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Back from Sudan

My early November visit to Khartoum and environs was, as always, both endearing and heartbreaking. The Sudanese people, both northerners and those displaced from the south and Darfur, are so friendly and kind that visitors tend not to understand how stressed, unhappy and even hungry many of them are. Victor Gali Thomas, Together for Sudan’s Deputy Country Coordinator, and I visited two of the “self help basic schools” in the squatter settlement of Soba Aradi . Together for Sudan has been helping these schools for more than ten years but circumstances at Soba Aradi, a miserable waterless wasteland of blowing sand and deep poverty, are worse than ever and the future more precarious.

Khartoum is expanding and one day when the bull dozers arrive yet again, they will not stop and even the schools and places of worship will go. Meanwhile, we do what we can although due to the present international recession this is far less than we have done in the past. A member of the Parent/Teacher Association at one of our partner schools wept as he explained present circumstances to us.

During every visit to Sudan I am reminded how precarious life is for the majority of the 38 million Sudanese and how important education is to their present and future. In a country which is oil rich, survival remains the primary objective of millions of Sudanese, including the perhaps three million who now live in squalid encampments for displaced persons outside Khartoum.
For thousands of these people – and for similarly impoverished and marginalized people in the Nuba Mountains – the Together for Sudan Eye Care Outreach is the only medical attention they ever receive: thus the importance of keeping Dr. Nabila in antibiotics as well as eye ointments.

Together for Sudan is using this time of economic recession to reconsider several of our projects. Readjustments already include combining the Teacher Training and Basic Scholars projects and a planned reduction in the number of universities included in our University Scholarships Project. The expansion of the Vocational Training Project is another intension but one which currently lacks funding, as does our previously dynamic Women’s Literacy Project. There is much to ponder and to plan but we face the current situation in full confidence that by listening to what displaced and marginalised people say they need, the way forward will be found. Please join us in this life saving effort.