A case study on how a project evolves
At the Diocese of Rumbek, we believe in working in close cooperation with the local community and in tailoring our projects to the needs of the people. The story below illustrates just how this happens:
It was in October of 2018 that Sister Rita Grunke, of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, was taking a Saturday morning stroll with one of the secondary school teachers. They had decided to walk around some of the villages of Mapuordit. Suddenly, the calm of the morning was shattered by the sound of a woman screaming at her child. As the two ladies drew closer, they saw that the woman was beating the child severely. Horrified, they asked her what the problem
The woman burst into tears.
‘I’m left alone with all my children,’ she said, ‘there are many of them, all of primary school age. I’m hungry, they are hungry, we are all hungry. But I have no food for them. All I did was to ask this girl,’ she indicated the crying child, ‘to do some small chores for me. But she refused.’ The woman continued to cry. Then she went on, ‘I am very poor, but I pay all the school fees for all the children – it’s a lot of money, but it is wasted.’
‘Why?’ Said Sister Rita.
‘Because they don’t respect me,’ said the woman, ‘they have become lazy. They don’t return home until it’s almost dark.’ ‘What about the father of the children,’ asked Sister Rita Once again, the woman burst into tears, ‘he’s seldom home,’ she said, ‘he has many wives in other areas – he is away for many months.’ The scene disturbed Sister Rita and her companion. It was, they knew, a very common scene
around Mapuordit. But they couldn’t walk away from it: something had to be done. Over the next few days, they planned a meeting for the women of the area inviting any woman who felt overburdened and unable to cope. They wondered how many would arrive. Hundreds of women flocked to the meeting. And nearly all their stories were the same: missing husbands, fatherless families, inability to pay school fees, despair… Indeed, there were so many stories that two more meetings had to be called just so that everyone could have their say.
From these meetings a small steering group was formed, its sole purpose to address the issues raised by the mothers and, if possible, to find solutions. The steering group was made up of responsible community members – men and women, and it met on the first Saturday of every month. As to the results, the mothers simply asked that they be given communal gardens with a continual water supply so that they could grow vegetables throughout the year. This would protect their children from hunger and, if there was any surplus, they could sell it to raise funds for school fees.
It was an excellent idea, and a garden was duly created. But the programme didn’t end there. Working with the committee, the sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart went on to provide funds to pay for the secondary education of some disadvantaged young women of the district. They also provided simple residential homes for those disadvantaged young ladies who lived a great distance from the schools and feared to walk there and back every day for fear of kidnap and rape.
The homes had an additional advantage: they mixed Jur and Dinka girls together, giving them an opportunity to get to know each other and break down barriers. The sisters also taught them skills such as knitting and crocheting. Finally, the sisters arranged to offer a simple food distribution service to the very poor, elderly or disabled women of the community. Now, the ladies gather together in groups to collect their food packages; they also take the opportunity to meet with their fellow women and offer support to them. The sisters even entertain them with bible readings. The project has been an immense success and over 100 ladies attend the weekly meetings which they say is the highlight of their lives.