A recent National Geographic aerial survey of the eastern regions of South Sudan discovered vast herds of wild animals. The researchers were stunned by what they saw. Nearly everyone had assumed that wildlife was nearly eliminated in S. Sudan during the four decades of war. Since 1983 displaced peoples and soldiers, hungry and on the move, regularly killed and ate elephant, giraffe, buffalo and other animals simply to stay alive. "We had thought all the large herds were gone." To the contrary, their photos prove that the wildlife remaining in Sudan will rival the fabled herds of the Serengeti. We can only hope that the new government of South Sudan will soon establish extensive game preserves to give sanctuary to these animals and to enable a tourism industry to develop as well. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness...."
When I say that living in Sudan is "sort of like camping, only with more spiders and scorpions," I mean it. Nearly all of South Sudan's people live in rural settings, usually with only the barest necessities for survival. For girls, the leap from such a place to an elementary school is huge; to stay in school long enough to attend high school is rare. And the odds against being able to enroll in a university are astronomical. Mercy Beyond Borders is trying to change those odds through the promotion of girls' education and the provision of scholarships to the best female students.
The village shown in this photo, for example, produced a young woman who is now an MBB scholar in a Nursing College. Three cheers for Debora! She was pulled out of 9th grade by her family to be married to an older man; they subsequently had two children, but Debora never relinquished her dream of finishing school. Finally, at age 21 she returned to high school and later graduated (the only female in her class of 70). MBB then provided a full scholarship so that Debora could pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. We salute you for your courage, Debora!
In South Sudan, where such a high percentage of the population is not yet literate, radio is a particularly effective means of communication. During December 2010, Mercy Beyond Borders visited Good News Radio station in Rumbek. With a broadcast radius of 100 miles, it has become a powerful tool for reaching people in rural villages.
MBB now underwrites a weekly radio program promoting girls' education. The show utilizes taped interviews with girls, mothers, teachers and government leaders, and also has a live call-in component. We see it as a very useful, cost-effective way of spreading the word about the significance of girls' education. It also gives women and girls a voice!