Our investigation led us to groups of folks, literally fresh off the truck. They told us that people are waiting at the border for any transport that will bring them home. If they can get here, Doctors Without Borders is waiting to provide a bucket with 8 basic items, a “welcome package” including two blankets, pots, matches, a sewing kit, rope, a tarp to sleep under, and a plastic container to hold water. A basic survival kit turned into a housewarming gift…except there is no house.
Before the conflict hit their area over a year ago, Rose and her household of 10 were retrieving water from their village well that ran on electricity. When the crisis hit, the power went out. There was no fuel to run the generator and so the well was useless.
Imagine caring for 10 people under your roof without the ability to provide the basics of water.
Rose owns 12 jerry cans that she and her family fill twice daily. With the well broken, the closest water source was over a mile from her home. Often that walk was not safe so they would need to go into town where they would have to pay 7 South Sudan Pounds per jerry can (about a nickel). That's money that could have been spent instead on food and other basic needs. By the way, a nickel multiplied by 24 (filling 12 jerry cans two times) is $1.20. That's more than the average person in South Sudan has in TOTAL to live on each day.
Rose's home is by the roadside, so often people would stop by her house for water. Just like we are willing to share a cup of sugar with our neighbors, Rose is happy to share water with hers. And in times of crisis, community members are dependent on one another. So of course, you share what you have.
This well was completely restored at the beginning of December and water now flows with ease by the hand pump that was installed.
On the day this well was reopened, jerry cans were lined up. People were excited, ready and waiting. Our team will never forget the cries of joy as clean water was pumped into the jerry cans.
There will be more time for education and work.
There will be more money for food.
There will be more life.
Water is More
Almost equally inspiring have been the faces of communities gathering around well heads once the well is functioning. A well head is something akin to our water cooler except by a multiple that is indescribable. Wells not only provide health for the body, but for the community and the collective soul. Dozens of locals gather around well sites and do what locals do when they gather. In a nation ravaged by war, this is a strong first step to raising the likelihood of peace.
It is our long faithfulness to this country that gave us an influential place at the table in peace talks. The goal is grassroots dialogue and agreements that become a model and catalyst for the entire nation. On June 4th, 2017 a cessation of hostilities and peace was agreed to and signed in Kampala Uganda.
By any account these are tough times in South Sudan: more than 1,700,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries, 1,000,000 of which are children. It would be easy to get discouraged or distracted.
Can you imagine what the people in South Sudan are facing? Recent reports count 7,900,000 suffering severe hunger, and of course, water remains a key need.
Our focus remains on supplying our local South Sudanese team to meet the needs inside the country, where almost 2,000,000 are now displaced. In the past weeks, we have wired funding for 20 well repairs, shipped an additional 6,200 water filters, squeezed a food relief convoy past rebels and flew in some critical medications. This next week I will head to the capital. Watch for an update from there, and in the meantime, Carrie Ward shares below about her experience after her first month on the job.
Listen to her heart, please...
Thank You, Steve Roese
I’m a 42-year-old mother of 2, pastor and wife of a pastor, with previous careers in education and children’s ministry. Why would I choose to change careers at this stage in life?
Over the last month, I have reflected daily on the countless stories of resilience and hope I encountered on my first trip to South Sudan. There are so many, I would like to share two.
Meet Patrobas and Rejoice.
The well in their village was drilled 2 months before our visit. We saw pure joy on their faces as they told us how clean water has not only brought them physical health and promise but clear skin (washing your body with dirty water has side effects as well). They were proud to have their own committee to manage their well. What a sense of purpose and hope they had! In gratitude for our visit that day, they gave us a goat! Understanding the weightiness of that gift, it still hangs heavy on my heart.
We also visited 93-year-old Lucy.
We were there to bring some bags of beans and maize flour as her family of 48 had been eating one meal ON A WEEKLY BASIS. We sat under a mango tree and listened as she joyfully shared the gift of a song to each of us thanking us for the food. I have learned that many in Yei are now surviving on mangoes alone.
Mango season is a short one.
I have such gratitude for the privilege I have to be able to tuck my children into their beds each night. We always have food to eat and space to dream. My heart is heavy for moms in South Sudan struggling to find something to feed their children after spending hours in pursuit of water.
The news of what is happening in South Sudan is not good. But we are seeing hope each day, too. Wells are being restored, portable water filtration systems have been delivered, truckloads of food have been brought into Yei by a military escort. Funds have been raised for medicine to supply the clinic in Yei. All funded by you. In my short time here people have organized fundraisers in Delray Beach, Franklinville, N.Y., Boca Raton, Dallas, Philly, Colleyville, Wisconsin, Indiana, Boca again, Coral Springs, Belton TX, Coppell, and Maine. I’m inspired and overwhelmed by so much:
The generosity of donors
The power of partnerships
The endurance and bravery of the Water is Basic South Sudan Team
The need of the South Sudanese people
The sense of urgency
However, I am most overwhelmed by how many of you are so faithful to this work having never experienced what I have. I’m now aware more than ever how crucial your giving is. On behalf of my friends in South Sudan, thank you.
With grace and peace,
It takes an "act of God" for the international community to use the words FAMINE or GENOCIDE. United Nations treaties require certain responses by the world when those words are used. So when they are used, we should all pay very close attention. Humanity is at risk, and we are all required by our humanity to respond.