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Make a Difference Monday: HELPSudan

26 January 2009

HELPSudanOn Saturday night, Mike and I attended a fundraiser for the organization HELPSudan. I have known about this organization for a while, but this event was the first time I really learned about HELPSudan. And now I think it’s time you knew about it too.

Three “Lost Boys” started HELPSudan to build a school and dig wells for fresh water in one of the communities they were forced to leave many years ago. You may have heard something about the Lost Boys. No, I’m not talking about that vampire movie from the ’80s with the Coreys and that guy from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure who isn’t Keanu Reeves. I’m talking about the 40,000 boys between the ages of five and fourteen who walked thousands of miles to flee genocide and civil war in Sudan in the 1980s (only point of commonality with the vampire movie, I assure you). After these boys spent years walking and more years living in a refugee camp in Kenya, a number of governments around the world welcomed the Lost Boys who survived into these countries. (If you want to learn more about the history of the Lost Boys, I recommend two excellent movies: Lost Boys of Sudan and God Grew Tired of Us.)

A number of them ended up in Chicago, and I remember how, many years ago, some of them attended my church. (It was definitely strange to me that people referred (and still refer) to them as the Lost Boys because few of them were still boys at this point. I guess it works though.) A few of the members of our church began working with these some of these guys. My lack of knowledge until Saturday proves that I most likely was not paying attention at this point.

Eventually, one of the Lost Boys, Jok, came up with the idea to start an organization to help the community he left so many years ago in Sudan. He recruited his friends Michael Ajang and Duot, as well as some Americans – a few from my church – and, in March 2005, HELPSudan was born. Since its inception, HELPSudan has started a school in the town of Bor. As of December 2006, this school now has more than 1,000 students.

The one problem is, and the reason this is my Make a Difference Monday pick, the school does not have a permanent school building. Every year, they build mud huts for classrooms, and every year the rains wash away the mud huts. Can you imagine that? You go to take your kids to school, and there’s no school. The teacher is hanging out under a tree and welcomes the students to join him for class, but there is no protection from the rain, sun, flies, mosquitoes, anything. I think most of us would just turn around and take the kids home. Yet these students in Bor, they keep coming. And they thirst to learn.

As you probably know, if you’ve stuck with me for any amount of time, I spent October 2007 – February 2008 in Zambia. I met many humanitarian workers from numerous NGOs, and they were all doing great work. However, what always made me a little sad was that so few NGOs focused on education. And, from the work I did and the families I encountered, it seemed to me that quality education was lacking in the lives of so many children in Africa. And I believe, and after Saturday I now know HELPSudan agrees, what will really make the difference in Africa is quality education. Sure, you can hand out condoms to help prevent AIDS, you can string up mosquito nets, you can even send in peacekeeping troops – these are all important things. Without proper education, however, I believe the cycle of hunger, violence, death will just continue and continue.

HELPSudan is mounting a defense against this cycle in the form of a school and at least a thousand more educated children. And these Lost Boys, they deserve our help.

So when you have some time, check out the HELPSudan website, watch this short documentary, and give generously.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2 February 2009 2:53 pm

    Thanks a ton for the shout-out. It was nice to see you at the event, and it’s a blessing to have you telling your friends about us. You and Mike are on my list of “PeopleIMustGetToKnowBetter” and this blog is a good example of why.

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