Friday, May 22, 2009

Q&A with 7th Graders in Georgia

My cousin Hayley’s 7th grade advanced social studies class at West Side Magnet School in LaGrange, Georgia sent me questions about life in Sudan. Some of our conversation is included below. If anyone has more questions, you can leave a comment on this post, and I’ll answer.

”What food do you eat?”
Stew, roasted meat (goat or cow), greens, rice, stiff porridge of flour, bread, beans, fruit, and vegetables.

”What is the weather like in the place you're at?”
In Juba it is hot all the time 80-100 degrees. The rainy season started in April, and we get a good storm a couple times a week. The rain will last until November here in Juba. Climates vary tremendously across Sudan. With tropical forest, grass land, mountains, the largest swamp in the world, and desert.

“What are the conditions for people?”
In south Sudan the situation is dire for many people. Returning refugees do not have access to the food and water they need. Education and health care facilities are rare and poorly staffed when they exist. Maternal and child mortality are some of the highest rates in the world. Hunger is widespread.

”What is your job, specifically, in Sudan?”
I work for the Episcopal Church of Sudan, which is the largest Christian denomination here. I work for the provincial office, which is the office of the Archbishop for all of Sudan (north and south). I am a missionary of the Episcopal Church USA, assigned here to work for the Archbishop at his request. I am an agriculturalist, and so my job is to start an agriculture department for the church. I have been helping in the planning process for larger scale food production projects, and I assist the regional bishops with training and advising for their agriculture programs. I do workshops with subsistence farmers and pastors, teaching them improved farming techniques, that allow them to increase their food production without having to purchase expensive inputs (sustainable techniques like composting, mulching, adjusting plant density, etc). I spend most of my time traveling in the south to the rural areas. When I am at home in Juba, I attend a lot of meetings, and work in the office.

”Do they have any similarities to us? If so, how?”
People everywhere are essentially the same they have the same concerns: family, friends, making a living. People argue and tell jokes, they go to work, they go shopping, kids play games and make toys out of anything they can find. Soccer is the favorite sport. People go to church, sing songs… the similarities are endless. There are 5 kids in the family I live with and we don’t speak the same language, but we still play tons of games together, and laugh all the time.

”Life is obviously different there; how did you adapt?”
Its not so hard to adapt. The food is different, but good. Learning the meaning behind different sayings and how to be polite is difficult at first when you come to a new culture. What is difficult now is worrying about the future of the country and the increasing violence. But it is also hard missing my family and friends.

”Where and how do you get most of your water from?”
At home we have running water in the house. When I am traveling in areas that don’t have running water, someone goes and hauls water by the bucket from a hand-pump well, or from a river. Many diseases are spread in water, so drinking water must be boiled or purchased.

”What is your living system (daily routine?)”
When I am in Juba, I get up around 7, have tea with family I live with, drive or walk about ½ mile to the office. Where we have power, internet, printers, scanners, etc. I research on the internet, communicate with bishops and others about projects, planning (calling, meeting, writing). When I am traveling, which is more than ½ the time, it is different. We drive down dirt roads, stay in local accommodations which are usually tukls (huts), we are greeted by the people, eat, meet with bishops, tour the diocese, see agriculture projects, conduct workshops, and pray together.

”Do you know anyway that we may help?”
You can write to President Obama and to your Members of Congress and Sentors. Tell them that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan is in danger of falling apart, and the country going back to war. Remind them that the US is one of the countries that signed the agreement as a guarantor of the peace, and it is our responsibility to do something before it is too late.
You can also give money to groups working in Sudan. And you can pray for Sudan.

Special thanks to Hayley for organizing this discussion, and to she and her classmates for their concern for the people of Sudan!


jfmiller28 said...

Dear Robin,

What effect, if any, do actions by the UN and USA have on your work? Which actions help; which impede progress?

mylifesnhshands said...

You're an inspiration. Stay blessed. Joy