Rebecca

Lives Saved – Overcoming Adversity

Lifting Up A Community and a Remarkable Woman

Using her God-given talents and a simple foot pump sewing machine, Rebecca (seen in the photo above) is known in her village for creating beautifully sewn garments. She uses her skills to teach other ladies in her community how to sew, and develop a means to support themselves.

But Rebecca is not your typical seamstress. She lives in the leper colony of Malo, which is situated on the outskirts of Rumbek, South Sudan. Rebecca has suffered from leprosy her whole life, which has left her with just one finger and no toes. Yet despite her handicap, she continues to transform brightly colored fabrics into attractive and useful apparel.

Adversity is nothing new to the residents of the leper colony. But overcoming their disease seemed like an impossible dream until recently. Families with leprosy are typically expelled from communities and driven forcibly away. They find themselves completely cast out and cut off from society. As a result, they end up with nothing and become destitute.

Just months ago, the people of this community were on the brink of death from starvation and illness. Driven from everywhere they went and unable to trade, they were homeless, sick, and ravaged by hunger. Their clothes were worn and ragged, and some had none left at all. They were eating leaves and waiting to die.

When Sudan Relief Fund partners discovered this group of people in their desperate state, their lives began to turn around. With generous support from our donors, Sudan Relief Fund delivered emergency food, medicine, and clothing. Homes were built, a health clinic and maternity ward were constructed, and now this community even has a church to celebrate their joy and thank the Lord for their blessings.

Rising above. A courageous woman overcomes her handicap and learns a marketable skill.

The loss of extremities from leprosy cannot be restored for people like Rebecca, but the progression of the illness can be stopped in its tracks with simple treatment. No longer is this community starving and homeless. Today, because of the generosity of donors, the village is slowly turning around.

You will see people working in planted fields, or like Rebecca, using their God-given talents in productive enterprises. Children have the chance to go to school. There is still much work to be done to cure the ill, to provide enough housing, and to rebuild a community. Medicines will always be needed. But hope has returned.

Sudan Relief Fund partners recently visited the leper community. What struck them most from their visit was the joy the people radiated in the midst of their circumstances. Their smiles were contagious and their gratitude immense. Some are still fighting leprosy, but now they have the hope of a better future. And their children are now spared from contracting the horrific disease.

There under a tree, surrounded by other ladies watching and learning, you’ll see Rebecca maneuvering her sewing machine and fabric with her one good finger and her foot without toes, singing while she works.

These stories are made possible by your support of Sudan Relief Fund. Thank you for partnering with us to save lives.


Would you like to pray for us? Sign up for our email prayer group to receive weekly emails sharing important needs to pray for. You’ll join a faith community around the globe praying to bring hope and help to suffering people in this forgotten part of the world. Click here to find out more.

Building a Better Nation

Schools Train Future Teachers and Healthcare Workers

In a place where the number of educators and healthcare workers are dismally few, Sudan Relief Fund supports two facilities that are preparing students to fill this critical need across their nation.

The Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in Wau equips students to become registered nurses and midwives, to bolster availability of healthcare services that couldn’t be more greatly needed in their country.

Sister Nora McCarthy observes as a student takes a blood pressure during a class at the Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in Wau, South Sudan. Run by Solidarity with South Sudan, an international network of Catholic organizations supporting the development of the world’s newest country, the CHTI trains nurses and midwives from throughout the country. McCarthy, who is Irish and a lecturer at the CHTI, is a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia.

The Need for Facilities

Currently 34 counties in South Sudan have less than one primary healthcare unit per 15,000 people, and 23 counties have less than one facility per 50,000 in population.

Proximity is just one problem. Transportation is another. Only 59% of people can reach a healthcare facility within one hour from their home, and 80% of the population face severe obstacles in getting to a place of care – obstacles such as lack of vehicle transportation, impassable roads, and threats to safety when traveling.

Working to Improve Women’s Healthcare

Most mothers have no access to prenatal care, and deliver babies in their villages with no qualified medical supervision. It’s not surprising this gives rise to one of the worst childbirth mortality rates globally. These conditions amplify the need for qualified nurses and skilled prenatal care.

Since 2010 the CHTI has been fighting to change those statistics. To date the school has graduated 268 new healthcare workers as registered nurses (RN) or registered midwives (RM). Thirty seven percent of graduates are women, and this number is increasing. This year, 43% of the student population are women – a significant number in a country where a stigma against educating women remains prevalent.

Sister Maria Teresa Ronchi teaches a class at the Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in Wau, South Sudan. Run by Solidarity with South Sudan, an international network of Catholic organizations supporting the development of the world’s newest country, the CHTI trains nurses and midwives from throughout the country. Sister Ronchi, a Comboni missionary from Italy, is a lecturer at the institute.

Promoting Peace and Unity

In addition to their medical skills, another primary component of training is peace negotiation and reconciliation. Students come to the institute from all different tribes, regions, and backgrounds. A major aim of the CHTI is to promote unity among students, teaching them to work side by side as people of one nation, who will carry that sentiment into the communities where they live and work.

A full 85% of CHTI’s graduates are currently employed in the national public or private health sector, and 35% are serving in mission hospitals around the nation. Each year a handful of students are sent on for further education, who come back as tutors to help train other students at the institute.

The Solidarity Teacher Training College (STTC) is dedicated to raising up the teachers of tomorrow for their nation, to combat deplorable literacy rates and alarmingly low school attendance among the country’s child population.

Localized conflicts, inability to pay schools fees, long distances from places of education, and concern for safety along the route to and from school are major factors in low attendance.

Fighting the Statistics

Government spending on education in South Sudan continues to decline and the shortage of school personnel continues to rise, underscoring the importance of the STTC’s mission more than ever. Since 2012, the school has graduated 746 teachers, and 72% of these graduates are employed in education in their local communities.

STTC is committed to promoting equal opportunity education for men and women. Currently, 17% of graduates are women, and the school has set a recruiting goal for women to reach 50% of their student population. They are getting close. This year, among the 41 new students enrolling, 20 of them are women.

Joana Ilario, a graduate of the Solidarity Teacher Training College (STTC) in Yambio, South Sudan, helps one of her students in the Catholic Church-sponsored St. Mary’s Primary School in Yambio. The STTC is run by Solidarity with South Sudan, an international network of Catholic groups working to train teachers, health workers and pastoral agents throughout the African country.

Enhancing Curriculum

Students master a curriculum of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Christian Religious Education, Physical and Health Education, with extracurricular activities in Arts and Music. There are also agricultural workshops and sports activities. Each year, two students are chosen to pursue higher education, who return to teach at STTC for a minimum of four years.

Beginning in July of 2022, STTC launched a new additional one-year program for graduates, so those who hold their basic primary teaching certificate can achieve Diploma level. This will bring their teaching credentials closer to that offered in other countries and open opportunities for graduates to qualify for higher positions in the education sector.

Exemplifying Peace

Another mission of the school is to equip teachers with peacebuilding dialog and conflict resolution skills, to serve as leaders in their communities in unity and reconciliation efforts that represent a tremendous need in the nation.

Because of our faithful donor base, Sudan Relief Fund is able to continue supporting these two wonderful institutions, that work on the frontlines to build a more peaceful and sustainable future for the people of South Sudan.

A Collision of Crises in South Sudan

Four years after South Sudan’s warring government factions signed a peace agreement intended to put an end to civil war, humanitarian indicators reveal the struggling nation is in as much distress as before, if not greater.

A lethal combination of internal strife, disastrous weather, and the effects of the Ukrainian war have plunged the volatile country into further poverty, displacement, and hunger.

Victims Flee Ongoing Violence

The five-year civil war that broke out shortly after South Sudan’s independence in 2011, killed at least 400,000 people and sparked widespread hunger and homelessness. The young nation is tenuously ruled by a transitional government between current president, Salva Kiir, and his rival, Vice President, Riek Machar, representing opposing political factions. A free election slated to take place in December was recently postponed, extending current rulership for at least two more years.

Both factions have been accused of using their current authority to shore up power and expand their supporter base. Meanwhile, violent clashes are commonplace in various parts of the country, and growing rogue militias nearly outnumber the nation’s armed forces.

Cattle raids, burning of homes, and armed attacks continue to force entire communities into displacement camps and worsen the poverty level that already plagues the people. Recent estimates underscore the dismal situation that “almost half the country is fighting itself.”

War and Weather Extremes

Adding to the problem of ongoing violence is a series of extreme weather events from devastating floods to widespread drought, fueling a burgeoning food insecurity crisis across the nation. Humanitarian organizations report over 7 million people are going hungry while facing cutbacks in aid from the World Food Program, and interruptions in vital food shipments from Ukraine. Rising prices of what food supplies exist make purchasing staples out of reach for most families.

In local culture, families will typically share food with another household if someone is without. Now locals say that’s impossible, as families themselves are struggling to survive. With so many now heavily dependent on aid that’s been restricted or doesn’t arrive, observers fear a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions will arise from these combined factors hitting the nation at once.

Peace activist and South Sudanese civil servant Julia Duany expressed, “Politicians have divided people, but the time will come when people will realize that we are not benefiting from what they are doing.” Until that time arrives, the people of this country continue to need increased humanitarian aid. Read more about the crises here: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2022/10/18/South-Sudan-humanitarian-needs-conflict-flooding-famine

South Sudan Rated “Worst Roads” in Region

Floods Choke Transport Routes and Hinder Aid Deliveries

South Sudan’s roads were named the “worst roads in the region,” according a report released by the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA), an east African source.

Recent torrential rains and widespread flooding in the struggling nation are worsening an already dire situation, hindering vital deliveries to people already facing food insecurity and malnutrition at crisis levels.

More than 1,500 trucks carrying critical food supplies were stranded for weeks in the Western Equatorial state due to impassable road conditions. South Sudan Roads Minister, Mijok Mijak, apologized publicly for the delay and claimed the trucks would be movable within a few days’ time.

Not a timely coincidence, South Sudan is experiencing its fourth consecutive year of floods, which currently affect nine out of the country’s ten states. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the floods have wiped out crops, killed livestock, swept away homes, washed out roads and bridges, destroyed schools and health facilities, and submerged boreholes and latrines to create sanitation risks and the threat of waterborne diseases.

In the western state of Bahr el-Ghazal, rains and floodwaters collapsed a key bridge that has cut off delivery of emergency aid. To the north in Unity State, the rising waters breached dykes in two locations that threatened a UN Mission base and two camps for internally displaced people.

According to the most recent UN report, over 900,000 people have now been affected by the floods in South Sudan, which is more than double the figure reported a month ago.

Read more: https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/africa/2022-10-07-south-sudan-minister-sorry-for-worst-roads-in-region/, https://www.africanews.com/2022/10/12/over-900000-people-affected-by-floods-in-south-sudan/.

Passing the Baton

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Partner and Welcoming a New Sister

Sister Anne Wandia poured her heart and soul for years into caring for the poorest and marginalized on the frontlines of the challenging Wau refugee camps.

During her service, thousands of displaced people and desperate families found their way to the camps at Wau. Sister Anne Wandia never failed to be there offering lifesaving help – food, clean water, a place to stay, schooling for the children, spiritual and emotional support. Through it all, she helped traumatized, weary people gain the will and resources to start over.

Now Sister Wandia has been called to another country to serve people in need in a new capacity. “There are many happy memories in my mission,” she said, “thanks to the support and help from Sudan Relief Fund.”

Sister Anne Wandia’s countless contributions will be remembered in Wau, their legacy being reflected through the many thousands of lives she has impacted for the good.

A New Chapter

Sudan Relief Fund welcomes Sister Felicia Matola, who is coming to South Sudan to take on the challenges of the Wau refugee camps. But the challenge is not a new one for Sister Felicia. She has been a professed Franciscan missionary in Africa for 52 years.

Hailing from the United States, Sister Felicia decided when she was seven she wanted to become a sister. She was twelve when she set her heart to become a missionary. She trained for the sisterhood in the US, then spent time in the congregation’s mother house in Ireland.

After that she headed to Uganda where she spent the following 25 years. Among others, she worked in a teacher training college, taught biology in Namagunga, lived among the Ituk in Usuk doing pastoral and youth work, and helped women in development. 

The Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa (FMSA) have been working in five countries on the continent since 1903, including Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Sister Felicia recognizes the challenges that accompany working in South Sudan and knows well the struggles. But she is determined to live out her life’s mission in the region.

“It’s very difficult to tell people ‘God is love,’ and then just get on a plane and leave, and come back when it’s nice and cozy, and they have had to go through all the trouble. The fact that we stayed made a very deep impression on the people and I think it showed them we really did care about them and do care about them.”

Threat of Starvation Mounts as Hunger Crisis Swells in South Sudan

A hunger crisis of disastrous proportions continues to brew in South Sudan, where more than 8 million people face severe food insecurity. Ongoing civil unrest and weather extremes from floods to drought have ravaged the nation’s food supply. Worsening the conditions are skyrocketing prices from the war in Ukraine and cutbacks by the World Food Program, which come at the worst time for this nation already under threat of widespread starvation. PBS exposes the dire conditions in this special report.

Khalis

Dr. Tom Helps Young Boy Walk Again

Every day, Dr. Tom Catena works around the clock to save lives at Mother of Mercy Hospital – a facility supported by Sudan Relief Fund that offers hope to more than 100,000 patients each year who would otherwise go without needed medical treatment.

They come for many miles, traversing hours of difficult terrain to reach this remote destination in the Nuba Mountains. As Founder and Medical Director of the hospital, and its only surgeon for many years, Dr. Tom has seen it all.

Some patients particularly touch this veteran surgeon’s heart. Recently he shared the story of a boy named Khalis.

Khalis was a strong and healthy teenager. One day he was dismayed to discover that his leg began to swell. Not only was this concerning, it also brought debilitating pain.

He searched for answers at his local clinic, but none of the treatments helped. In a very short time, he went from a robust teenager to being unable to walk without assistance.

For an entire year, Khalis simply endured the pain and made do with one functional leg. However, soon his good leg also began to swell. This devastating discovery led him to make the long trek to the Mother of Mercy hospital to seek help.

Khalis at last finds the help he needed at Mother of Mercy Hospital.

“He came to us in rough shape,” said Dr. Tom. When Khalis arrived, he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a severe bacterial bone infection that had set in. He needed a blood transfusion, and he required surgery on both legs to get rid of the infection and all affected bone tissue.

Thanks to Dr. Tom’s skillful expertise, the surgeries were successful. Soon Khalis will leave his wheelchair behind and graduate to crutches. “While his path to healing is long, it brings me joy to share that a full recovery is on the horizon,” Dr. Tom reported.

Khalis continues to improve and inspires the staff daily with his resilience. “Witnessing Khalis’s progress is remarkable,” Dr. Tom continued. “His spirit of joy is infectious, and happiness radiates from his smile. He’s made a profound impact on my entire team.

“I wish you could witness the impact you’re making on people living in the Nuba Mountains in person,” Dr. Tom expressed. “Because of your generosity, patients like Khalis are receiving the treatment they need to feel whole again.”

Stories like this are possible because of your support to the Mother of Mercy Hospital through the Sudan Relief Fund. Your gifts are changing lives and bringing hope every day to patients like Khalis and many others. Thank you for partnering with us to save lives.


Would you like to pray for us? Sign up for our email prayer group to receive weekly emails sharing important needs to pray for. You’ll join a faith community around the globe praying to bring hope and help to suffering people in this forgotten part of the world. Click here to find out more.

Sister Orla Celebrates 25-Year Jubilee with Loreto Rumbek

School Makes Strides to Promote Girls’ Education

Celebrating an Incredible Servant

September 17 marked a day of celebration as members of the Loreto Congregation honored Sister Orla Treacy, Director of Loreto Rumbek Schools, on her Silver Jubilee. For more than 25 years Sister Orla has served the congregation and community, demonstrating her dedication and commitment to sharing God’s love with the people of South Sudan. Some of Sister Orla’s family members were present for the landmark occasion. Sister Orla recalled many joys and struggles during the past 25 years, but noted how God’s grace has brought her through all of it, and she remains focused on the future.

Leaders and Trendsetters in Education

Graduates of the Loreto School for Girls continue to debunk myths and transform stereotypes about women’s education in their country. There are currently thirty female students pursuing higher education in Nairobi, and others attending universities throughout East Africa. We thank the donors of Sudan Relief Fund who support Loreto Schools and are laying the foundation for a brighter future for girls in this nation.

We thank the donors of Sudan Relief Fund who support Loreto Schools and are laying the foundation for a brighter future for girls in this nation.

High Achievers

Students at the Loreto Schools receive a high quality education, which is reflected by the fact that they continue to turn out some of the highest test scores in their state and country. Results of the senior exams were recently released for the Class of 2021-2022, and students from Loreto School for Girls occupied five of the top ten spots in their state. One Loreto student achieved the number one score in the state and placed in the top ten nationwide.

Loreto Health Clinic Expands Outreach

The outreach program of Loreto’s Mary Ward Healthcare Clinic is now serving seven villages in the surrounding community and assisting growing numbers of people. Because of the high demand, the clinic holds outreaches twice weekly for many vulnerable community members who can’t afford medical treatment. The clinic was also one of the only facilities in the region to remain open to serve the public through the duration of the pandemic.

One of the clinic’s highest priorities at present is their nutrition program, to combat the escalating population of malnourished children. This month the clinic enrolled its third intake of at-risk children into the program. These 57 children will come to Loreto Clinic several times over the next three months to participate in the nutrition program, with a goal of reaching healthy wellness objectives by the time they have completed it.

Marching for Peace

Senior students participated in a peace solidarity walk known as the Peace Pilgrimage. It is an annual event at Loreto that gives students an opportunity to go to a different community to enhance their understanding about peace and the people around them. It is also a time to reflect on the country’s challenges and spend quiet time with God. This year they went to Rumbek-East. The seniors were accompanied by the director, priests, sisters, teachers, and were blessed with a beautiful day for the event.

Roi Bullen

Woman Persecuted for Being Barren
At Last Receives Mercy and Compassion

“Sudan Relief Fund is a true manifestation of the love of Christ to the people of South Sudan. Many people have lived, and continue to live, a dignified life because of the huge impact Sudan Relief Fund has made in the lives of the marginalized.” – Fred Otieno

Roi Bullen had the odds stacked against her. Today in her sixties, she resides in a community supported by Sudan Relief Fund where people living with HIV/AIDS can receive the help they need without being ostracized.

When Roi was just 14 years old, she was given in marriage. But as time went by, she and her husband had no children. Roi was accused of being barren – a torturous label for a woman to bear in her culture. She suffered ongoing abuses from parents, siblings, and friends. She was considered of no value to society – of less worth than an animal.

In 2004 she learned she had contracted HIV/AIDS, and two years later her husband died from the illness. Roi’s persecution intensified. She was beaten on a daily basis by her husband’s relatives, ostracized, and in accordance with the Azande culture, sent away homeless.

The open air of this meager shelter caused Roi to suffer from ongoing malaria, coughs in the cold temps, and let poisonous snakes enter at night.

Roi eked out a meager survival living homeless, until a nephew offered her a piece of land in his compound to construct a small shelter. What you see in the photo[1]  is everything Roi possessed. Due to the open air walls, she was often sick from malaria and contracted coughs in the cold night weather. She was also at constant risk of snake bites from the poisonous breeds that emerge at night. But at least she had a roof over her head.

Now with the support of Sudan Relief Fund, Roi has finally found the compassion she always deserved but never experienced. Roi has a brand new brick construction house[1]  with a door that closes to keep snakes and mosquitoes out at night. She received clothing, food support, and medical treatment. Roi also benefits from counseling and psychosocial support, which makes a significant difference in rehabilitating her from the trauma she’s experienced. She now lives a dignified life. And as you can see in the photos, she even smiles these days.

These stories are made possible by your support of Sudan Relief Fund. Thank you for partnering with us to save lives.

Children Living on the Edge of War

Over 50 Years Serving South Sudan’s Orphans

Sister Bianca Bii has seen the effects of warfare since she was 12. She knows better than most the effects it has on children. As a young woman, Sister Bianca took it upon herself to begin looking after orphans she knew had lost their parents from violence, famine, or disease. Eventually, she made a formal request with her bishop to start a home for orphans and her request was granted.

It’s been over 50 years now since Sister Bianca began her mission. Today she remains at St. Bakhita’s Orphanage, named for the patron saint of South Sudan who despite experiencing horrific violence, never lost her humanity and goodness. Our team visited the orphanage on their recent trip to South Sudan to assess the current situation.

Holding On With Your Help

Somewhere around eighty now – Sister Bianca doesn’t know her exact birthdate – she continues to overcome numerous challenges to take care of children at St. Bakhita’s. The needs of the orphanage are met in large part thanks to Sudan Relief Fund donors – you who faithfully support her work and provide a family for orphans.

After a difficult year that included a temporary stay in a refugee camp when fighting was at its worst, Sister Bianca and the children are living at the orphanage again. At times, fighting can be heard just outside their gates. But Sister Bianca says “No one has ever entered through those gates.” She tells how she put up a cross at the entrance and trusts in the Lord to protect them.

Current Conditions

For a short period of time, the government sent troops to guard the orphanage. The troops remained for a week, but since departed and have not been called back. The fact they aren’t needed right now is welcome news to the residents of St. Bakhita’s.

There are currently 75 children living here, along with elderly who came during the fighting, because they weren’t strong enough to flee. Sister Bianca welcomes them, too, including some who are blind.

Because the regional fighting has lessened, she says many who took refuge at their facility have gone back home to areas like Yambio, Ezo, and Source Yubu.

Sister Bianca’s Wishes

Sister Bianca’s wishes are that her children will stay safe from violence, have food, clean water, sanitary conditions, and she hopes they can receive an education. But she remains thankful to Sudan Relief Fund for providing all of their needs.

Your Help Is Vital

This year our donors provided the means to get Sister Bianca and the children through a very challenging time. “We are very grateful,” she says solemnly. She recalls how emergency food funded by donors kept them alive during the shortage. When Sister Bianca and the children were in the displacement camp, relief supplies from the World Food Program weren’t enough for the massive numbers of people. Sister Bianca said she and the 75 children she takes care of wouldn’t have lived through that experience without the extra food Sudan Relief Fund made available to them.

Give Them A Safer Home

That’s the critical difference you’re making. For the St. Bakhita’s family this past year, your help made the difference between life and death. Please know your support continues to be absolutely vital. It is Sudan Relief Fund’s goal to relocate Sister Bianca and the children to a newer facility in a safer area, with greater resources available to them. But we need your help to make that happen. 

If you’re not currently a sponsor, and would like to give monthly to help the needs of the children at the orphanage, please sign up as a supporter today. Any gift to help St. Bakhita’s Orphanage will make a difference. Thank you for your faithful support that is a literal lifeline for Sister Bianca and these children.

Surviving Leprosy
Bringing Healing to the Forsaken

Lepers become homeless, destitute, and eventually starve. Without treatment, their disease progresses until they grow too weak or disabled to help themselves. They slowly die from exposure, starvation, illness, or attacks by wild animals.