WEEK ONE IN SOUTH SUDAN
You may remember reading the hellacious ordeal that Cole and I underwent just to arrive in South Sudan. It seemed the odds were, in fact, not “ever in our favor.” But alas, with the help of the good Lord and a man named Lucas, we made it. Weak-eyed, backsides on fire, puffed up from hours on end in the air, we made it.
But then we left you hanging. We offered a few short updates and then we vanished.
And it probably left you wondering, “So what did they actually document while they were there?”
This, my friends, is the answer to that question. What you’ll see below is all that we captured during Week One of our trip. Week Two will come in the next post.
But stop scrolling! I know you want to look at all the pictures, but I promise, if you’ll just read the rest of this, the pictures will make much more sense.
So here’s the deal: we partnered with two different organizations while we were in South Sudan. The first week, we partnered with Empower Sudan in their educational efforts.
The big picture is this: South Sudan is the newest nation on the world’s stage, and we have the incredible opportunity to serve our fellow global citizens in the baby steps of their educational progress. The effort of this cause is to train local teachers, administrators, and principals to work together to create a lasting school system in one city, and let those leaders teach their neighboring cities how to do the same. The neighboring cities in turn do the same until the whole country is properly equipped to educate the next generation of kids!
This obviously happens over a long period of time, but there are teams that go over to South Sudan every few months to make sure the leaders are reproducing methods that will sustain their education system. The best part is this: the job of the American volunteers is only to equip a group of Sudan leaders until the model is reproducible. Eventually, the system will sustain itself, and it will be run by native South Sudanese instead of transplant Americans!
The teams that travel over there started with just one man–our team leader, Tom McDonald. Now the group is growing as he’s added on more and more teachers to go and train with him.
The reasons we volunteered to document this are as follows:
1. Are you kidding me?! The youngest country on our globe needs its baby years photographed! The reason we know our own country’s history is because someone with a pen or a camera documented key moments.
2. We want the natives to have photos that motivate them to keep going, keep learning, and keep training others. We want them to be empowered and to feel hope when they see their own faces and their own children learning.
3. We want all American donors to see with their own eyes that their contributions matter and they are giving to a worthy cause.
The photos below show the conference that our team put on for local teachers, admins, and principals in their church house. While the adults were learning, the kiddos were down the dirt road in their school. They even came in one day to perform a song and dance as a way to honor our team! Those who weren’t in school or at the conference walked up and down the main road all day, traveling to come get water. Every time I looked outside the church windows, I saw another family or another group of children walking with their jerrycans to fetch water from the local water well. You’ll see portraits of kids, women, and the school leaders, as well as the church house. You’ll see moments where each member of our team got to teach, and moments when the locals were taking in all that they had learned. They also got to stand in front of the class and share their own reflections from the conference.
The conference ended with a customary celebration of local songs and dances that they taught us; watching their joy brought tears to my eyes.
Oh, and we couldn’t let you go without revealing the infamous rooster!
Friends. Welcome to Week One of South Sudan.