Lacombe charity considers aid options in Sudan
By ERIC RAJAH
For the Globe
In Kosti, Sudan - Day 2, April 3, 2009
Our morning started out with a briefing from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) field office staff. It was impressive to see all local Sudanese people well qualified to manage the work. We are staying in the two rooms above their office. After the meeting we were off to the project site inside the Internally Displaced Persons(IDP) camps. These camps are now permanent so permanent solutions are needed.
We are looking at several needs in two camps - one with 14,000 people and another with 17,000 people. Our support will benefit 31,000 people with water, sanitation and education. The camps each have approximately 3,000 households that need to be cared for. The camps are in the middle of a desert in the outskirts of Kosti.
The key to this project is the Cross Roads Church in Red Deer. They are considering funding the water project for the two camps in partnership with A Better World. Dan Wilson and Anton Beaukes are here from the Cross Roads Church's Global Compassion Campaign Committee (GCCC). Dan is a lawyer and Anton is the pastor of outreach missions.
The first issue is water. 31,000 people depend on unclean water from the Nile River drawn on donkey carts. Can you imagine 44 degrees celsius degree weather with no access to water for this many people? Life is hard is an understatement. People at the camp welcome us. We are amazed how the local people of different tribes and religions are supporting each other. They all came as a result of conflict in their regions, but the same people are working and helping each other. We met with the camp leaders from both camps and are beginning to get a picture of the dire needs. These camps have been running for up to 20 years in the same condition as we are finding them today.
The Sudanese President had expelled 13 aid agencies and warned the rest that within one year all of them may be gone. He was retaliating for the call from International Criminal Court (ICC) that the president should be arrested for war crimes. He is the first president to be charged while still in office. This has caused some serious tension here. With all foreigners on guard here, and many departing, we have chosen to come here. The officers from HAC will travel with us and monitor what we are doing and where we are going. Today, we are quite surprised to find that they are quite comfortable with us. They are very open and participate in the discussions. They are also here to protect us. There is no tension here and we walk everywhere and ask whatever we want. We have not noticed a single white person since leaving Khartoum. People are so gracious and feel happy to know that they have not been abandoned. What we hear and see in North America is not what we are experiencing here from the Sudanese people. Most here in the north are Muslims. The entire partnership to doing development work here is looking to be very promising. We are seeing such good cooperation from the government to helping the displaced people here in Kosti.
Classrooms here are rustic. There is no furniture. Children sit on the sand inside that can easily blow with the desert winds. Many do not have books. The government will place a teacher if the buildings are put up. Setting up a community for 15,000 people is no easy task for any single group. But we will put our best foot forward.
Editor's note: Eric Rajah, co-founder of the Lacombe-based charity, A Better World is in Sudan this week and writes from there of his experiences. More information www.a-better-world.ca