Thursday, February 25, 2016

Our Two Edvines

What are the odds that, among 4 MBB staff in South Sudan, two of them would be named "Sr Edvine"???  And that both of their surnames would begin "Tum...."  That would be Edvine Tumwesigye and Edvine Tumuheirwe, to be precise.  The former is our amazing Scholarships Coordinator, and the latter is our newly-resident nurse at St Bakhita Girls' Primary School.  In our books they are simply Edvine #1 and Edvine #2. We love them both!

Here's Edvine #1, who traverses the vast, rough geography of Kenya and S.Sudan to support and encourage our Scholars.

And here's Edvine #2 tending to a young girl sweating with malaria.

Day after day, they do the hard work of improving the lives of women and girls with MBB in South Sudan.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

(The Illegal Leap) From 10 to 28

Here's the map of South Sudan established at the time of its independence in 2011.  Note that it has 10 States.

The embattled government of S.Sudan, which has been struggling with various armed rebel groups for two years, has recently decided to split the country into 28 States instead. This has caused an uproar and brought the peace negotiations to a halt.  The rebels claim, with substantial cause, that the gerrymandering is illegal and that it heavily favors the dominant Dinka tribe, to the political detriment of all other tribes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eastward to Africa

Here I go again!  By the time you read this post, I'll be winging my way across 11 time zones from San Francisco to Portland to Amsterdam to Nairobi.  Lest that sound exotic and fun, let me share the details:

After 28 hours in transit, my zombie-like self will, I hope, clear Kenyan immigration and customs before midnight and land at a local Mercy convent. Then it's back out to Jomo Kenyatta Airport early the next morning for the next leg of the trip to S. Sudan: a flight to Lodwar, in central Kenya.

Alas, the discovery of oil in northern Kenya has vastly complicated my travel to South Sudan: the airport at Loki, quite near the S.Sudan border, has been shut down (several years already!) for repairs and expansion.  Lodwar is an undesirable alternate airport, located some 5 hours south of Loki, and thus necessitating a long road journey to the border, where I must stay overnight (think lovely motel "tukul") because it will be too late in the day to get cleared by the border control officers. The next morning the journey resumes northward, with long stopovers to obtain multiple official stamps in my passport from Kenyan and S.Sudanese immigration personnel. That done, we cross into S.Sudan and after another hour or two (providing the rivers are not impassable) arrive at our nearest project site, Narus.

Beam me up, Scottie!

But, you might ask, "Why not fly into Juba, the capital of S.Sudan, which is less than 150 miles from Narus?"  Yes, that would be a better option, for sure (a mere 12 hour road trip) except for the fact that the road linking Juba to Narus is plagued by ruthless bandits murdering travelers every week.  Often the road is simply shut down by the army as "too dangerous" for transit.

Anyone want to come with me?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Child Soldiers and Much More...

                                                                                                    Photo from
It shouldn't happen anywhere--young children being used by governments or rebel groups to fight their wars--but in South Sudan it's just one horror in a long list of horrors.  In January the UN Mission in South Sudan issued a scathing report detailing widespread atrocities: "The scale, intensity and severity of human rights violations and abuses have increased with the continuation of the hostilities" and have pushed 4 million people to the brink of starvation. The report cites large-scale killings, attacks that single out children, and "an unprecedented level of sexual violence including gang rape and sex slavery." A particularly disturbing feature of the conflict, the report says, is the warring parties' total disregard for any safe havens including hospitals, religious institutions and areas such as UN enclosures where civilians fleeing the fighting have assembled.

The UN estimates that 13,000 - 15,000 child soldiers are now active in the escalating conflict.