Sudan Relief Fund (SRF) is a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves and strengthens the people of South Sudan by providing food, water, clothing, and medical aid; and by developing institutions of civil society to promote peace and stability for South Sudan’s future generations.
SRF envisions a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan with a strong infrastructure and the ability to meet the most basic human needs of its citizens. Currently, 4 million people are displaced from South Sudan. Our mission is to return South Sudanese refugees to a country safe from systemic violence with the opportunity to become a stable nation. Our vision is one of a self-sufficient country with thriving schools, hospitals, governing bodies, and programs that empower the South Sudanese people to maintain their independence and peace. Ultimately, we work towards developing a country able to achieve peace, prosperity, and stability in both the short and the long term.
For over two decades, Sudan Relief Fund has united a community of philanthropic partners like you to give generously and thereby make a transformational difference in thousands of lives in South Sudan and the surrounding region.
Dear Friends in Christ,
What a year it’s been. In South Sudan, the COVID pandemic led to a wave of government-ordered closings. Major border crossings, refugee camps, schools—all were shut down. While the subsequent inflation was predictable, what no one predicted was a decrease in violence from organized militias in some regions.
Your support of Sudan Relief Fund’s partners on the ground allowed them to respond quickly to this unexpected opportunity of (relative) peace. At Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, Dr. Tom Catena will soon open the expanded surgical theatre despite transportation delays and inflation. Several school construction projects in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio have been completed, with others slated for the fall semester. And from Gidel to Tombura to Source Yubu, Sudan Relief Fund and our partners found creative ways to bring aid where it was most needed. In short: Because of you, our partners’ capacity to provide education, health care, and aid to the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters in Christ grew substantially in 2020.
As Nurse Noeleen Loughran put it, “The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been many and debilitating.” Yet, in a year when most humanitarian organizations pulled out of the region, SRF stayed and continued to help those in need. We remain and we serve, with complete trust in God and deep gratitude for you and every member of the Sudan Relief Fund Mercy Society.
Yours in Faith,
Bishop Eduardo Thanks Sudan Relief Fund Donors
Sudan Relief Fund is active in the lives of thousands of people in South Sudan. These spotlights on refugee aid, healthcare, and education showcase just a few of the highlights from 2020.
Healthcare and Medicine
Dr. Tom Catena, Mother of Mercy Hospital
2020 was a year of transformation for Mother of Mercy, a 400-bed hospital near Gidel, in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. In this region of around one million people, Dr. Tom Catena and his staff serve hundreds of patients every day.
The drive to improve Mother of Mercy’s capacity and care is a marvel to behold. Dr. Tom and his staff are excited to be close to opening the expanded surgical theatre, funded by SRF donors.
Not that they are spending much time planning the opening party: Dr. Tom performs several surgeries every day of the week, with a typical day lasting fourteen hours, even as he remains on call all night. Dr. Tom credits God, the love of his family, and prayers from many around the world for his endurance and for the hospital’s growth. “It’s no exaggeration to say that we can’t do any of this without the help of Sudan Relief Fund. So, we thank all of the donors for all their wonderful help that allows us to do our very important work here.”
The Christian Brothers Star Support Network Serving
those stricken by HIV-AIDS is challenging
But in South Sudan, where medicine is a luxury item and healthcare infrastructure is nonexistent, the challenge is immeasurably greater. Yet, with your generous help, the Christian Brothers are growing a community that isn’t just saving lives—it’s changing lives.
Because of its holistic approach to care, the Brothers’ Star Support Network has been flourishing as much as those they serve. In 2020, 950 HIV patients received free medication at the Brothers’ dispensary, and from this group more than 20 South Sudanese received training and were certified as tailors. In fact, these skilled workers were among 115 who launched small businesses with microloans provided by Sudan Relief Fund. 218 children of parents with HIV were educated in the school, providing relief and consolation to their parents.
Your support enabled Sudan Relief Fund to pay the salaries of the program coordinator, pharmacist, counselor, tailoring instructor, and microfinance officer who made Star Support Network happen. And they did so despite the increased challenges of operating under COVID restrictions.
Safe Motherhood Project In partnership with Catholic
Medical Mission Board
Safe Motherhood Project in partnership with Catholic Medical Mission Board, you, and the Sudan Relief Fund helped reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality in Nzara, Ezo, and Yambio counties. And not a minute too soon! In the region, there are about 67,200 women of reproductive age, most of whom live in rural areas without access to medical care, and South Sudan already has the appalling distinction of having the worst pregnancy mortality rate for mothers and children in the entire world. Many newborns and children die before their fifth birthday.
Responding to this crisis, you helped us provide 2,688 women with safe deliveries and antenatal care this year! With your help, we also dug 50 boreholes to provide lifesaving clean water to 25,000 people. SRF brought training and on the- job mentoring to over 60 health providers and supervisors at primary health care centers, county health departments, and referral hospitals.
Amid the tribulations of a pandemic, you helped make South Sudan safer for mothers and young children—both by providing access to safe motherhood and childhood services at facilities, and by increasing access to fresh, safe water, and support for expectant mothers and new mothers at home.
When the national government ordered schools and other institutions to close, Sudan Relief Fund and our partners took the opportunity to build. Even amidst construction slowdowns, border closings, continuing insecurity, and supply shortages, our partners pushed forward. In the Tombura-Yambio Diocese alone, students are thriving. By next fall, pupils from four primary schools and one secondary school will have increased their capacity and quality by leaps and bounds. Here’s where we are in that process:
• Regina Martyrum Mupoi Primary School acquired all necessary construction materials and was finally able to begin renovating its classrooms, which should be complete by the end of summer.
• Workers at St. Mary, Help of Christians School in Tombura have replaced the dilapidated old iron roof with a new one, allowing for the updating of classrooms.
• The new St. Genevieve School should be prepared to welcome its first class of secondary school students in spring 2022.
• Adjacent to the border of the Central African Republic in Source Yubu, St. Thomas School’s four new classrooms are almost complete, and will be ready in the fall.
• Finally, Fr. Avelino in nearby Ave Maria has cleared a site and obtained materials for the new Ave Maria School, and construction is underway.
SRF also partnered with another order, the Christian Brothers of Instruction, to build a dormitory on the campus of Our Lady of the Assumption School in Rimenze. With 217 elementary and high school pupils (119 girls and 98 boys), a teaching staff of 10 and 8 administrative staff, head of school Brother Achilleo is thrilled to have the additional capacity: “I am grateful to God that amidst all the tribulations and challenges we have gone through, the Lord has not allowed our toils to go unrewarded.”
St. Clare Orphanage in Juba continues to grow, as Father Federico Gandolfi and the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor now care for and provide education for over 100 children. Father Federico reports many “small victories” with the children, who have suffered terribly from the loss of parents and other loved ones. One young boy witnessed his mother’s murder in 2018 and would not speak when he arrived at St. Clare. Now, he is speaking, making progress in school, and even laughing with his fellow children.
The new friary, which was funded by you and other SRF donors, accommodates the existing fraternity. But crucially, it can also welcome visitors and accept a limited number of candidates for the discernment of their vocation to the Franciscan life. You’ve helped build a center for evangelization, offering faith education to parishioners and others in the local community who see the good being done by the friars and want to know more about the Catholic Faith.
Although recently relocated to Rumbek’s leper colony, Nurse Noeleen Loughran spent a lot of time serving the poorest of the poor in the world’s largest refugee camp—the 100-square-mile-spanning Bidi Bidi, just across the border in northern Uganda. She was known by locals for showing up with her large suitcase full of medicine, which you and SRF have made possible. Thousands of lives have been saved by this courageous Irish missionary nurse. As best as she could, she treated those suffering from or at risk of malaria, cholera, and a dizzying range of ailments and injuries.
Not long ago, Noeleen reported on a typical day in Bidi Bidi:
“I was out in the villages yesterday treating the old and bringing some food. It is very sad. I came across a man who has HIV and cancer. He’s 71 and there was no food or treatment because he couldn’t afford it. I ordered the treatment from Kampala and he will get it tomorrow. I brought him some food to keep him going for now. On the way back, I also saw many people digging in the fields who looked very thin and fragile, but I didn’t take photos as I didn’t want to be disrespectful.”
It is difficult to fathom the plight of the millions of South Sudanese who were forced to run for their lives, who sought shelter in often unstable refugee camps. But the lifesaving care and hope that Nurse Noeleen brought—because of your generous support of Sudan Relief Fund—most certainly has an impact.
“Life is hard here and in many parts of the world. I’m very hard on myself that I can’t fix everything. But thanks to Sudan Relief Fund, we will change some lives because we care and keep the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.”
St. Bakhita Orphanage
St. Bakhita orphanage in Tombura began in 1997, when Sister Bianca Bii was moved by the plight of dozens of orphans whose parents were killed in the Sudan civil war. She began by cooking for the children and trying to provide basic shelter and at least meet their most basic needs.
24 years later, Sr. Bianca and her small staff are caring for 60 orphans, and providing not only for their immediate bodily needs, but for their overall well-being. In 2020, Sudan Relief Fund helped build a new dormitory for the girls, as well as a new kitchen and latrine. We also helped upgrade the orphanage’s well with a solar-powered pump.
The children—sporting new school uniforms that you also made possible— joyfully send their thanks to SRF Mercy Society donors. Without you, 2020 would have been a bleak time for them indeed.
A Miracle, Deep in the Rainforest
As a boy growing up in Spain, Avelino Bassols was moved by the stories of the nineteenth century missionaries who risked all for Christ in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
When he answered Our Lord’s call to become a priest with the Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle, it wasn’t long before Fr. Avelino was serving in Kenya. He was in love with his flock, and for 25 years had never felt happier. After trials and countless blessings, however, Fr. Avelino discerned that the progress they had made had led to a certain degree of safety. He returned to Spain for a retreat on St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, and felt in a powerful and specific way called to engage with a new mission—in South Sudan.
This vision became real in 2018, when he was assigned to Ave Maria parish in Source Yubu, a small town near the border with the Central African Republic. Here, he and his vicar, Fr. Albert Salvans, would bring the missionary community’s “comprehensive vision.” As he puts it, “Now that the people are returning to this area, our goal is to rebuild physically, but most importantly spiritually.”
What this means is that the missionary community immediately set about building infrastructure for education, healthcare, and vocational training for young people. But it also meant transforming the large, dilapidated church at Ave Maria into a shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary.
Within a year, the missionary community had made renovations to the largest church in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio. It also launched a secondary school, a small emergency medical center, a vocational training center, and a facility to welcome pilgrims to the shrine.
“At Sudan Relief Fund, we get to work closely with some true heroes,” said SRF President Neil Corkery. “But even among these remarkable partners, Father Avelino stands out. What he’s been able to do in just under three years is simply astounding, and his energy and joy are reflected in the growing community of Ave Maria.”
In 2020, your support of Sudan Relief Fund helped Fr. Avelino install a high-capacity, solar-powered well . . . expand the emergency room and hire additional healthcare staff . . . and develop the other facilities of Ave Maria parish.
Here, deep in the rain forest, a miracle is unfolding. Fr. Avelino gives Our Lord the credit for the transformation that is drawing many closer to Him. And he is deeply grateful for your partnership.
“I place my whole trust in God. Through Sudan Relief Fund, He reassures me daily of His loving kindness.”
“Sudan Relief Fund is one of my top charities!” Robert M, San Jose, CA
Members of Sudan Relief Fund’s Mercy Society—and our entire donor community—responded with remarkable generosity, even amidst the uncertainty of last year. We truly cannot thank you enough! In 2020, Sudan Relief Fund received $6.7 million from the support of its generous donors, including a very generous bequest received at the end of 2020. Despite many government shutdowns that made it difficult to carry out projects, Sudan Relief Fund has already given out $2.78 million in support of many projects in South Sudan:
We offer special thanks to Sudan Relief Fund donors whose exceptional generosity had a major impact in 2020:
William and Shirley Fletcher
Dr. C. Louis Perrinjaquet
James and Patricia Melluish
We are also grateful for the kindness of key foundation partners, who did so much to help amidst the pandemic in 2020. We especially want to thank:
The Reed Foundation
The KLM Foundation
The Semnani Family Foundation
The James and Loretta Colotto Foundation
Meet the Team
Bishop Eduardo Kussala
Bishop of Tombura-Yambio Diocese in South Sudan
Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala is the Catholic bishop of Tombura-Yambio Diocese in South Sudan. When he was nine months old, his mother was killed when their village was attacked and destroyed. He lived with his grandmother in a refugee camp for five years. When they returned to Sudan they lived in the Sudanese Internal Displaced Persons Camp. These early experiences shaped Bishop Kussala’s passionate dedication to peace.
During the Sudanese Civil War, he was involved in providing pastoral services to over 42,000 Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic, and he was head teacher of a secondary school in the refugees’ camp. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, and in 2017 Bishop Kussala was appointed the president of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference. This past year, Sudan Relief Fund funded two trips for Bishop Kussala and the Catholic Bishops Conference to visit the South Sudanese refugees in Ugandan refugee camps.
Bishop Kussala holds Master’s degrees in Bioethics, Government Politics, and International Relations, and a PhD in Moral Theology. He is the author of several articles and three books. His latest book, Reconciliation, Healing and Peace in South Sudan: Reflections on the Way Forward, focuses on the importance of learning from the mistakes of the past to prevent them in the future. He emphasizes that faith plays a fundamental role in the process of preserving the nation for future generations.
Since joining Sudan Relief Fund in 2005, Neil has traveled frequently and extensively to South Sudan, developing close working relationships with bishops and numerous groups working in the country, especially: Solidarity with South Sudan; Aid to the Church in Need; Catholic Medical Missionary Board; and various religious congregations such as the Comboni Missionaries, the Jesuits, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), and various Franciscan communities. In his travels throughout South Sudan, Neil met with and learned from caregivers, doctors, relief aid workers, and local civilians to better understand the country’s most urgent needs and challenges. With support from donors, Neil is dedicated to providing help, peace, and hope for the future by striving to fulfill immediate needs and aiding in authentic, integral human development necessary for long-term growth and stability.
Director of Operations
Before joining Sudan Relief Fund as director of operations, David served with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a United States Federal Government commission created by Congress to advise the President and the Congress on policies to promote international religious freedom. Mr. Dettoni has led many official delegations to the African continent, including to countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea; he has developed a unique expertise on persecution, the religious dimension to ongoing conflicts in the region, and to religiously motivated violence/terrorism. He also served as the co-staff director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
Director of Stewardship
Brendan Gotta leads Sudan Relief Fund’s development efforts, connecting with the broader SRF donor community in an effort to bring true change to South Sudan. He previously served as a major gift officer for Dynamic Catholic and as director of young adult ministry for the Diocese of Arlington (VA). Brendan leapt at the chance to serve with SRF after his brother’s service in South Sudan, and out of a desire to help those who are deprived of the safety, education, and opportunities that are so easy to take for granted in the United States.