Anna Chilvers manages Tearfund’s emergency programme in the Juba area of South Sudan. Here she talks about not only their response, but more strikingly the response of local people and churches.
The assessment we did in Katigiri (100km west of the capital Juba) at the end of January has led to us intervening there. We’re distributing tools to 2,000 households there in the next few days, with seed packs to follow in a month’s time. There’s over 3,600 households – 18,000 people – who fled into the area after nearby fighting. The host community welcomed them and have been sharing their tukuls (huts), food and household items.
I find it quite incredible that families who have very little, barely enough food to see them through to the next harvest, are so hospitable to others. They’re sharing their food, despite the fact that they’re aware that it means they’ll run out in March, because they can’t let other people go hungry. Their generosity makes it quite a privilege to work with them – another agency is distributing food whilst Tearfund distribute seeds and tools to enable them to plant and cultivate at the next harvest.
We’re also repairing some of the boreholes that were broken from overuse – now it won’t take the women and children 2 hours to obtain just a small amount of water that they have to make do for drinking, cooking and washing. So simple to do, yet makes such a big difference to people’s lives.
As well as Katigiri, I’m also managing our response at Don Bosco school (where I met Monica, a lady who gave birth shortly after walking 180km to escape the fighting). There are 110 households who are now living on land that the Church have provided, and with the tents it does now look like a ‘camp’. The Church has been supporting the women and children with food, but as they’re running out of funds we’re now providing food for distribution.
Latrines and Duck, Duck, Goose!
We’ve constructed emergency latrines and bathing shelters, and a group of us went there last week for a ‘Hygiene and sanitation day’ where we helped to clear and tidy the area, as well as playing games with the kids. The children were so eager to do anything; the fact that they probably didn’t completely understand the games was irrelevant! Father David is now trying to set up some school sessions for them which will be great – I’m trying to find him some money for stools and blackboards! It’s been so encouraging to see the Church responding as the Church is called to do; despite all the fighting and suffering there is also such care and open-handed generosity.
Work, worship & service
The sheer amount of work seems impossible at times, and in the back of my mind there’s the awareness that this is stuff that has consequences to people’s lives, and my delaying a purchase order means another day that people go by without enough food to eat… It can be a lot of pressure – which I’m normally too busy to think about! I am trying to remember that it is God’s work, and therefore He gets the problems, and He gets the glory!
As someone recently told me, the Hebrew word Avodah means a combination of ‘work’ and ‘worship’ and also ‘service’ – which all in all sounds like a pretty good description!
This piece contains Anna’s personal views and should not be taken as representative of Tearfund’s as a whole. You can find out more about Tearfund’s work in South Sudan here.