Notes from South Sudan: Traveling Back

I felt very at home during our two weeks in South Sudan. I was keenly aware that we all live under the same sky, and the same sun and moon shine down on us, wherever we live. I was especially moved to realize that children are children, all over the world. One day, sitting outside in our compound, I heard village children playing. If I closed my eyes I could have been on my back porch, hearing neighborhood children laughing, yelling and playing.

But time had begun to hang on me a bit, I missed my family, and I was ready to go home. We traveled back to Juba and the delights of a shower with running water, and air conditioning. A cold beer also helped. We had re-entered civilization and were soon heading home.

The trip home took 27 hours, and even longer for me to re-adjust. I took a hot shower immediately. I slept deeply the first night. But I didn’t know how to make sense of my trip. I also brought with me some kind of stomach distress, which made the re-entry a bit more difficult.

I thought often about the women in South Sudan – mothers like myself—and thought about how hard their lives are, even with access to water. They still walk for water, although those in villages with wells get to carry clean water home for their families. Some children have access to school, but not the education that we are so fortunate to have. Health improves, but people can still get malaria fairly easily. One of our country directors and one of our cooks had malaria while we were there. Life improves, but it is still a challenge in South Sudan.

After about a week back home I started to feel like myself again. After about two weeks I gained a deeper appreciation of our work. Water for South Sudan does transform lives. But life in the newest country on earth will not drastically change overnight, or this year, or decade. Change will come slowly. I am so proud of our work, and the thousands of supporters who enable it, helping to water the seeds of change in South Sudan. And we’re doing it, one drop at a time.

Children stand near a market in Wau.

Children stand near a market in Wau.

Read previous posts in this series: Transforming Lives and Traveling to the Field

WFSS team concludes a successful trip to South Sudan! From left to right: Anne, Salva, Lynn, Glenn and AJ.

WFSS team concludes a successful trip to South Sudan! From left to right: Anne, Salva, Lynn, Glenn and AJ.

Notes from South Sudan: Transforming Lives

WFSS well near Wau.

WFSS well near Wau.

Life changes everywhere we drill, including at the WFSS compound. When the current compound was constructed, WFSS drilled a well for compound use, and invited nearby villagers to use it. A village has sprung up around our compound, drawn, in part, by access to fresh water.

I watched young girls come to fill up their cans, sometimes going airborne as they worked the hand pump. The well is a short distance from their huts, and their mothers know they can send them to a safe place to get water.

As we drove through Wau, Salva pointed out several WFSS wells in use. We hopped out at two wells to meet the people using the wells, and to discover who had sponsored them. I was delighted to stop at the first well and discover it was sponsored by a donor from Rochester, NY to whom I had recently spoken.

Lynn at “her well” near Wau.

Lynn at “her well” near Wau.

We then stopped at another well and began to brush away the debris to see whose name was on the well. Letters began to appear – L – Y –N –N…. I began to jump up and down as I yelled, “This is my well!!!”

The team had a few “extra” wells in 2013 with no additional sponsor names, so they dedicated them to two board members, and me. I had not thought about this well again until we came upon it. It was an absolute joy to see my name in the cement, and to meet the women who use the well. The interconnection of life, water, and WFSS came full circle for me.

People around the world support our work. Salva came half-way across the world to start his new life in America, and has gone back, to help his people. And now I too got to go half-way around the world, to see the life-saving impact of clean water.

 

Notes from South Sudan: Traveling to the Field

Jerry cans at WFSS well in Aweil.

Jerry cans at WFSS well in Aweil.

Leaving the WFSS compound in Wau, and its relative comforts, we embarked on a journey to witness the work that our founder Salva Dut started 15 years ago, work that inspires our supporters across the US and around the world.

After a four and a half-hour ride on uneven, rough and rutted roads, never traveling more than 40 mph, we arrived at our campsite in Aweil State. The drilling team had chosen a site under a large tree, not far from a new WFSS well so that the cooks would have access to fresh water as the drilling and hygiene teams were working.

There were long lines of jerry cans at the newly installed well, and we met women whose lives have been changed by closer access to fresh water. There were many smiles among those waiting to fill their cans. One woman shared, “We used to go to another well, far away. It used to be hard to cook and wash. Now, with a well, it is easy—we just bring a can and fill it up. It’s so great. With dirt it is hard to take a bath. Now the children are so clean. The well is helping them so much.”

New well sponsored by University of Notre Dame class of 1984.

New well sponsored by University of Notre Dame class of 1984.

We were thrilled to travel the short distance from our campsite to the drilling site. We watched as villagers young and old gathered around to observe the transformation of their village. We watched the noisy work of our drilling rig and compressor as the teams installed pipes and blew out the dirt and dirty water that is the by-product of drilling.

Field work is hard and dirty work. The heat was often overwhelming for us. But no one complains. Villagers gathered each day to watch. We continued with our administrative “meetings under the trees” as the well was constructed, trying to make the most of our time.

Board President Glenn Balch with village deputy chief.

Board President Glenn Balch with village deputy chief.

I had an extra interest in this well as I was personally involved in the fundraising that sponsored it. My University of Notre Dame class raised enough money to have our name inscribed on the well. My heart was full to overflowing as I watched the WFSS complete their work, and then was able to stand with the villagers beside their new well.  I was overjoyed to stand in the photos with our banner, and the villagers who will use the well.

The deputy village chief, Tong Yel, was also overjoyed. He told us over and over that we would be blessed for bringing this well. “We appreciate those who helped us get clean water. Our children will have a better life. I wish generations to come would see you. The community would not have enough to purchase a well. We wish they had more to show their appreciation. God be with you and bless you.”

Leaving the field, we knew that lives would be changed, and we were changed as well, but the need continues. There are still many villages waiting for wells. Our team works with local leaders to determine well placement, but we cannot provide a well to every village. Our team must often share the hard news that we cannot provide a well this season. But this season we know that 49 villages did receive new wells, as WFSS helped to water the seeds of change in South Sudan. Being there to witness the watering was nothing short of spectacular.

Notes from South Sudan: World Water Day in Juba

Glenn, Lynn, and Anne with university students in Juba, South Sudan.

Glenn, Lynn, and Anne with university students in Juba, South Sudan.

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The following is a first in a series of blog posts, entitled "Notes from South Sudan", by Lynn Malooly (left), Executive Director of Water for South Sudan. She and several other WFSS team members traveled to South Sudan in March 2018. Look for more stories from her in the coming months.


I have had the honor of working at Water for South Sudan for the past eight years. In that time, I handled hundreds of photos from our work and always loved seeing photos of wells, and those who use them. I saw photos of people, village and landscapes, and our team drilling and repairing wells. But all that I saw was two-dimensional.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen hundreds of pictures of our work in South Sudan and have been so moved by the dramatic images. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing South Sudan in person is nothing short of life-changing.

When I traveled to South Sudan this past March our work, and people, became fully three-dimensional for me. I was able to experience the sights, sounds, smells and sun-soaked heat of South Sudan. Our mission came alive for me.

Munuki Rotary Club

Munuki Rotary Club

Our trip began with a three-hour drive from Rochester to Toronto before our 12 ½ hour flight to Addis Ababa. Our traveling crew included WFSS Board President Glenn M. Balch, Jr., Board member Anne Turner, and Operations Support Coordinator Gary Prok. Once in Addis Ababa we had time for an Ethiopian coffee in the airport before another short flight to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. We walked off the plane and were met a short distance away by WFSS Founder Salva Dut. We were interviewed by a local TV station and we shared our excitement about being in South Sudan. We talked about our work and outline for our visit, including plans to see a well being drilled.

In Juba, we attended a meeting of the Rotary Club of Munuki, held in an open air hut, and heard about their work – offering scholarships, assisting with Hepatitis B vaccinations, and planting trees. They are also looking at a borehole project near Juba. Glenn, a life-long Rotarian and past District Governor, shared his enthusiasm and support for their projects.

Lynn w Juba students - WWD.JPG

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen hundreds of pictures of our work in South Sudan and have been so moved by the dramatic images. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing South Sudan in person is nothing short of life-changing.


We had the happy occasion to celebrate World Water Day in Juba on March 22. Our day started at the Tulip Inn in Juba, where we met local university students, all sporting their new WFSS t-shirts. They told us of their studies, including computer science and agriculture studies, and future plans. Their dedication and enthusiasm inspired us and was very encouraging for the future of South Sudan.

The celebration for World Water Day, and National Nile Day, took place at the Nyakuron Cultural Center. Local government officials and ministers spoke on the importance of water, and several elementary school students also spoke. The students asked a few water-themed riddles, including: “I come from the family of water, but if I go back to water I die.  Who am I?” This one completely stumped the audience (see answer below).

Glenn and I were invited to say a few words on our work and thanked everyone for their attention to the issue of access to clean water. We were invited to be in many photos to mark the day.

The Juba portion of our trip was eye-opening and energizing. We would soon leave the comforts of our hotel and travel deeper into the country, to meet our team and see the work we do.

 


Answer to riddle: Ice!