Running Roads for South Sudan

On December 15th 2013, the generations-old power struggle between the Dinka and Nuer ignited and a wave of tribal violence spread across South Sudan. Once again, South Sudan was brought to the brink of war – this time a bloody civil war which has the awful hallmarks of descending into the kind of genocide that we so recently saw in Rwanda. Over a million people are displaced, the refugee camps are full and locals flee having seen villages burned and their tribes-people murdered.

Narus, being close to the Kenyan border is safer but is on the migrant route out of South Sudan. More than 500 people every day leave South Sudan through Narus.

The trouble broke out while the children were on their “Long Holiday”. We worried and feared that the children would not return to school – travelling by road was so dangerous. However, when the children began to return, we were overwhelmed and delighted to learn that so many had returned that the school could not accommodate them all in the dorms. A canvas was constructed to shield the girls from the blistering heat and wild animals but a more secure and lasting solution is needed.

Construction on the new dorm began in February. We have raised a considerable amount of money so far but there is still a way to go.

My wonderful brother Diarmuid and 14 other elite athletes from ESP have so generously entered 3 relay teams in the Cork city marathon which is taking place on Monday 2nd June 2014 to support the effort. And I ask that you support them while at the same time supporting our project in South Sudan. Each and every cent you contribute will be spent on the project – there are no administration charges or fees.

So please – dig deep and do what you can! It is hugely appreciated.

Welcome to St. Bakhita Madame Helena

Although I have been taking classes with my standard 8 girls, today I officially became a teacher. In a small ceremony in the staff room, Sr. Margaret the Headmistress presented me with a box of chalk, a UNICEF notepad and a red pen. It was an emotional moment.

To celebrate I collected my girls homework books and I am at home now making full use of my red pen!

I was also presented to the school in a very short assembly. Most of the students (and indeed teachers!) have not yet returned despite school officially restarting yesterday. Sr. Margaret wanted the children who had returned to meet me because she didn’t want them wondering “who this strange white woman was coming to their school”! It was really touching when they sang the Welcome Song and I felt like I had officially become a Bakhita girl.

I teach maths to the standard 8 girls, all of whom are candidates for State exams in November. There are 36 girls in my class. Maths is by far the worst subject in the school. There are about 10 girls who work hard and show real potential but our of my class of 36, 24 failed their mid terms. One girl got 6 points. I was shocked – one can accumulate more than 6 marks by virtue of being able to count.

Interestingly very few of the strong candidates are Toposa. In fact very few of my standard 8 girls are Toposa. It is still difficult for young Toposa girls to break away from tradition and get an education. Many Toposa fathers use the excuse that educated women become prostitutes in Juba. The reality is that for many, their only interest in their daughters is the dowry they will get.

Still though, I am adamant that in the time I have left I’ll whip these girls into shape and we will have no failures. So, I take my classes during the day but go to the school for extra tuition for both the strong and the weak in the evenings.

I’m just praying that in December I will have good news from my girls!

Here is a picture of my classroom.


Well….a very quick post from me to apologise for the feast/famine nature of my posts. Internet connectivity in Narus is difficult and I am currently in Riwoto visiting with Fr. John Marren who has Internet so I’m making the most of it! 

I know that the posts are slightly out of chronological order but I’ll try to capture and share my experiences none the less. So bear with me if things jump around a little bit 🙂