When Sudan makes the news, it is usually because of some conflict or famine or other disaster. While it's true that this part of the planet endures more than its share of sorrows, year after year, I can assure you that Sudan is also a place of breathtaking beauty: in nature and in its people. In the next few posts, I will highlight a few of its many natural wonders.
Here we see a banyan tree (well, not being a botanist, I am guessing it is a banyan tree--you readers can set me straight!). It's growing in a semi-arid part of South Sudan, in the town of Nimule, within the compound where I lodge when visiting. As you can see, it's a magnificent, towering tangle of roots and trunk and branches and foliage. Almost a whole community of trees wrapped into one vital pillar of strength and provider of shade and shelter! Doesn't it help you understand why people become huggers of trees?
As of this month, Mercy Beyond Borders is now active in 2 countries where women and girls remain mired in extreme poverty: Haiti and S.Sudan.
This photo was taken in Port-au-Prince 18 months after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake that leveled the capital city and sent thousands of families to the more rural regions of Haiti to seek shelter with distant relatives. The city is still full of rubble from collapsed buildings. Here a furniture maker has set up shop literally in the "cave" formed by the concrete slabs of what was once a 3-story apartment. The carpenter enjoys respite from the heat--but risks death daily if the concrete should shift or settle further.
Mercy Beyond Borders works in a mountainous region about 4 hours north of Port-au-Prince. Though the quake did not destroy too much there, the area has been heavily impacted by tens of thousands of families fleeing from the capital. We provide hope to the displaced families by awarding high school scholarships to the top academic female achiever in each of 16 primary schools there.
The Nile River, broad and swift-moving, cuts a wide swath through South Sudan's capital city of Juba. Barges move upriver (i.e. southward) from Khartoum, bringing passengers and all manner of cargo--except oil. The northern Sudan government in Khartoum stopped the delivery of petrol to the South in June, causing the price of petrol to skyrocket. One gallon of gas now costs the equivalent of $8 US dollars, an impossibly high price for most of the population. It is but one sign of worsening relations between the two halves of old Sudan. Much more worrisome: the recent bombing and military occupation by the north of South Sudan's oil regions, displacing tens of thousands of southerners. Where will it end? Will the international community stand by and do nothing?
Women's work never ends. In Sudan, the work can be hazardous to your health. Many women suffer from eye diseases. Watching the women cook over smoky charcoal fires several times daily, I wonder about the damage done to their eyes by the smoke.
Also, it is rare to see anyone wearing glasses in the villages. No one checks their eyesight. No one supplies corrective lenses.