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On Assignment in Southern Sudan

Iradukunda Bonus Patrick, the top performer on a county-wide exam. (John Mulreany, S.J.)
Thursday, August 26, 2010

By John Mulreany, S.J.

As an intern this summer at the JRS office in Yei, southern Sudan, I had the opportunity to participate in JRS’ work of accompanying, serving and advocating for refugees as they return to the Sudan and rebuild their lives.

Hearing the life stories of the refugees was especially moving, not simply because they have suffered so much, but also because they are struggling to move forward in spite of their past sufferings and current hardships. An awards assembly at Kinji Primary School stood out for me as revealing the hope and resilience of the Sudanese people.

As part of the assembly, Guo Rose Kasara, JRS coordinator for affirmative action programs, recounted her own struggle to earn an education degree as a refugee. Without money for school fees, she earned scholarships and completed her degree. After telling her story, she encouraged the female students to speak with her if they needed assistance with school fees, were victims of rape or became pregnant.

Next, Iradukunda Bonus Patrick, a top performer on the countywide primary exam, graduate of Kinji and now in secondary school, addressed the students. He described how he studies always, even when the light in his hut is poor or he is hungry. He urged the students to cooperate with their teachers and ask questions. His message was one of hope: despite challenges, one could learn. 

The difficulty of life in Yei is striking to any western visitor: poverty, insecurity, and lack of infrastructure are the norm. Nevertheless, there is hope. The landscape is dotted with small huts and people are farming and working wherever jobs are available. Hearing the stories of Rose and Patrick, one realizes that the Sudanese are tremendously resilient.

With peace, one hopes they can have the good lives God desires for them.