Group hopes to create new future for Sudanese

By Courtney Ho

The non-profit Ruweng Association for Reconstruction and Orphan Support is working to build a sustainable and environmental school in Southern Sudan. RAROS, also known as A Village Future, hopes the Biemnom Education Centre will provide education, health care and economic improvement in the area.

RAROS project director and president Dawn Ambler said the goals of the project are to improve living conditions in Sudan as well as provide accessible education so the facility becomes sustainable.

“The people of Biemnom can have access to education, training and employment opportunities,” said Ambler, in an e-mail interview.

RAROS was established in 2003 in Salt Lake City by Ruweng Dinka refugees living in Canada and the United States. The collaboration gained official society status from the Alberta Government in 2008 and became a registered Canadian charity the next year. RAROS headquarters are located in Calgary with members all over the world.

“Three years ago a student of mine, Simon Nyok, asked if I would build a school in his village,” said Ambler. “Since then I have spent three weeks in Southern Sudan, spoken with the people of Biemnom and agreed to build a school.”

The Biemnom Education Centre will serve as an elementary school for 3,000-6,000 children, a high school for 500 students and a vocational school for 500 students.

The environmentally-friendly facility will use solar energy, collect water for re-use and house a sanitation system that will not affect the area with chemicals. The facility will also have a 5,000 hectare farm providing food for the community and cash crop returns for funding.

RAROS vice-president Simon Nyok is a Lost Boy and refugee from South Sudan who escaped Biemnom as a child in the 1980s during civil war. Thousands of Lost Boys from Nuer and Dinka tribes were orphaned and separated from their families during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Nyok said the project is key in creating a hopeful future for many of the orphans living in the village today.

“I lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia until I came to Canada,” said Nyok. “I went back for the first time in 2007 and what I saw in Biemnom was unbelievable. There were many orphans without education and, as a result, I worry that their future will be worse like ours. We want Canadians and other world citizens with humanitarian hearts to help those children to achieve their future through help of those who will donate money to build Biemnom Education Centre in South Sudan.”

Third-year U of C development studies student Chelsea Shields sits on the project’s board of directors. She said it is important for students to get involved with organizations like A Village Future because the Sudanese need new, sustainable infrastructure.

“South Sudan is soon to be the newest country in the world, but it will also be one of the poorest and least developed,” said Shields. “It literally needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.”

A Village Future will be selling vegetable seeds for $2 at the Michael Bernard Fitzgerald concert on Feb. 11. The all-ages show starts in the MacEwan Ballroom at 7 p.m..

“We will be having an information booth at the upcoming MBF concert in what Michael is calling the ‘MacHall Community Hall,’ ” said Shields. “We will be amongst other charities such as War Child and Light & Soul and a second stage where various musical guests will be performing.”

The intent of the event is to fundraise for the school in Sudan, raise awareness about the project and send seeds to Biemnom, where the Sudanese will be taught how to plant them. A conference about South Sudan will also be held at the U of C in late March.

“We are inviting all those working in/for, studying about, or researching about/in South Sudan to participate in an interactive conference to learn from each other and perhaps partner in projects,” said Ambler.

The group aims for the school to break ground in November 2012.

“Donation and skill that you will give our citizens will make a difference,” said Nyok. “Please come and build a new nation with skill.”

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