A team of three St. John Catholic Church parishioners, Chris Price, Steve Deick, and Cris Fischer, went on a fact-finding trip to Yei, South Sudan in September to learn about the area, the culture, and how best to work with the local community, and, in particular, Fr. John’s people (The Kakuwa). Below is a brief summary of the visit. For a day-by-day account of the trip, visit the group’s blog.
School Children in Uganda
Our trip began in Kampala, Uganda, where we visited a primary and secondary school and a university. Our goal was to learn about the development of the educational system in Africa and to visit a prototype of the buildings we will be using for the school complex in Yei. Our hosts were incredibly helpful in sharing information and resources to help guide us as we work toward our goal of building a school.
Arrival in Yei, South Sudan – Meeting Fr. John’s sister!
We boarded a small charter plane to travel from Uganda to Yei. As we flew over the African terrain, we were reminded of the song, ”From a distance, we are instruments marching in a common band, playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace, they are the song of every man. God is watching us…(and watching over us…as we landed on the dirt runway of the Yei airport!) We were greeted in Yei by a wonderful group of people who were present with us throughout our visit. And, what a delight it was to meet Fr. John’s sister, Cecilia. She is a vibrant (and very funny!) woman and you would know in a minute that she is Fr. John’s sister! She is standing next to Steve (in the picture to the right) with the children from Harvester’s orphanage, on whose compound we stayed while in South Sudan.
Understanding the Culture and the Community
Each day we ventured out to learn about the community, the people, the government and education. Our goal, as we develop this project, is to work in partnership with the Kakuwa people and pay attention to their needs, desires and goals. We met with the bankers, the local engineers, and the commissioner to discuss the land, the buildings and local construction. We visited local shops to find out about the availability of supplies, materials and labor. We met with education officials, a local headmaster, and teachers, to discuss the current educational system and needs – and the needs are many. Over 100 children in their classes (if they go to school at all), 16% literacy rate among the girls and 40% among the boys. In every meeting, our desire was to learn as much as we could about the present systems and structures as this knowledge will help us understand how we can best work with the community and the people to build a successful learning environment.
Kakuwa Tribal Celebration and Visit to the Land
Our second to last day was set aside to visit the land on which the school will be situated. Oh my – what an amazing experience! Part of the land had been cleared and hand-hewn shelters were set up. There were speeches and music and dancing and laughter and food and even a play – with a very good moral message – which we could interpret even though we did not speak the language! The Kakuwa community with which we will be working welcomed us with open arms and we were treated like royalty. It was a humbling experience to recognize how much they desire this school and how important this is to the Kakuwa people.
Below are photos from the trip.