I met her by accident. We were rushing to visit three well rehabs just after lunch in the heart of the hot part of the day. These urgent well repairs were funded by our new partners, Drop4Drop in Great Britain, and I wanted some good photos before flying home. But in our haste, we forgot that most wells are locked between noon and 3:00, meaning there would be no people and no committee to meet with.
I made a quick U-turn in the dust to head back when I saw this sign on the side of a tent. Of course, we had to stop and see what was going on!
Remember, it was just this past July that a peace signing took place in Kampala with SPLA-IO (South Sudan People’s Liberation Army - In Opposition) commanders and SPLA generals. Signing is easy, implementing is the hard part. Between the “simple” logistics of food, water, and medicine and the complicated logistics of anti-peace forces doing hit-and-run raids, it can seem almost impossible to implement the peace that has been agreed to. Besides, war is very profitable for many and peace is a direct impact on their bottom line. Yes, there are lots of folks who do not see peace as a positive thing.
In September, when WiB board member Mark Westmoreland and I landed in South Sudan, we saw zero effects from the peace signing of July. Yei was a ghost town.
In December, there was a dramatic turnaround as stores were opening, taxis were running about, and a sense of hope was in the air.
On this most recent trip... a returnees tent!
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.
Viola Night was walking away with her bucket to find a place to rest and start again. And so I had to meet her.
“Why did you come back?” I wanted to know. The only news in the press or in diplomatic circles is despair, but here was Viola, newly home.
Her answer was simple, more of a sigh than a statement:
“I am tired.”
They are returning because home is safe, boreholes are being repaired, and the future is always brighter in your own home, living off of your own land.
We could rehab a well every single day if we had the money. We could replace more AK47s with filters if we had the money. We could send our own trucks to the border to bring people home if we had the money.
Please know that a dollar in the hands of our South Sudanese team is a powerful tool. With a little, they go far. Your investment now, your recurring monthly investment, your telling others of our work translates to clean water, peace, hope, home, rest for the weary...