New Center Extends Education to Young Adults and Community

Loreto Rumbek Schools, a Sudan Relief Fund partner, is a leading force in educating South Sudan’s future adults, and a pioneer in achieving equal educational rights for girls. Now the campus is bringing the opportunity to learn professional development skills to adults as well.

The Loreto Rumbek campus celebrated the grand opening of their new Loreto Education Center this month. The facility will accommodate classes for instruction in English, teacher training, tailoring, and computer skills for young adult men and women in the local community. 

In a country where school attendance and literacy rates are some of the lowest in the world, education makes a life changing difference for individuals and families. Directed by Sister Orla Treacy, Loreto Schools consistently turns out students with top scores in the nation and launches many graduates on to higher education.

A skilled community is a more prosperous, self sustaining community, strengthening families and the local infrastructure. Over 100 people have already applied to attend classes at the new Education Center, and 60 are currently registered for the first session.

Sudan Relief Fund is proud to partner with Loreto schools, and thankful to donors who are helping transform lives in Rumbek every day through the gift of education.

Record Temps Cause Temporary Shutdown

During March, the Ministry of Education ordered all primary and secondary schools in the country to close for two weeks, during a period of record high temperatures hitting the nation. 

The closures occurred as parts of the country reported temperatures of 106 degrees, with children ordered to stay home because of the potential health hazard posed. The high temps occurred earlier than normal in the season, sparking concerns of heat stroke for people in areas primarily without air conditioning or circulating fans. Schools reopened April 3rd.

The Trucks Have Arrived

A long awaited convoy of trucks recently arrived to the delight of the Loreto Rumbek campus, bringing much anticipated supplies and equipment for staff and students.

Roads in the nation are notoriously difficult to navigate, and during rainy season can become impossible to traverse for months at a time. The rainy season typically stretches from April to November, so the receipt of supplies at this timely juncture was cause for joy among the staff.

Some of the vital resources included in the shipment were furnishings for the new Loreto Education Center, workbooks for the primary school, and medicines for the health clinic.

Many of these achievements, from acquiring necessary school items, to opening centers for education to the public, to transforming the future for children through the gift of education, are only possible because of support from our donors. Thank you for partnering with Loreto Schools to accomplish this life changing work. You are impacting lives in lasting ways for people who would not have these opportunities without your generosity and compassion.

Lucia Anthony

New NICU Saves Lucia’s Preemie Baby Boy

When every minute counts and two lives wait in the balance, it becomes of utmost importance to be able to locate emergency medical care. Quickly.

Lucia was just 17 years old and pregnant with her first child when she found herself going into premature labor – a terrifying prospect for a young girl and her baby in a place where childbirth mortality is among the highest in the world.

The tragedy persists because of the widespread lack of quality healthcare for so many young women here. Girls who live too far from medical facilities often have no choice but to give birth at home on a dirt floor, facing labor without qualified medical supervision or sanitary conditions. Any complication, whether minor or severe, can turn deadly.

But Lucia was one of the lucky ones. It was eight weeks too soon for her to be giving birth. But because of a high quality medical facility within her reach – Mother of Mercy Hospital directed by missionary doctor Tom Catena and supported by our donors – Lucia and her baby would receive the best care during her tenuous premature birth.

Lucia was rushed to the hospital that represents the only place of hope in the Nuba Mountains for 300 miles in each direction. She was treated at the recently expanded maternity ward and labored all night. 

In the morning, her baby boy was admitted directly into the NICU – a newly opened wing of the hospital that serves as the ICU for babies and toddlers. That Lucia’s baby could receive critical care in a hospital NICU in this remote location is rare and remarkable. No other facility for hundreds of miles would be able to provide medical care for a premature baby.

For weeks Lucia waited and watched her tiny baby go from struggling to thriving, as he was cared for in the new wing known affectionately as Kangaroo Care. After six weeks, she was elated to learn he was considered in good condition and strong enough to thrive on his own. Lucia would be taking her baby boy home. 

While two lives were potentially saved that day Lucia arrived, she was exuberant that her new son was alive and well. She shared with staff how grateful she was for the hospital, and for the special care for preemies available at Mother of Mercy – knowing her baby wouldn’t have survived without it.

Mother of Mercy Hospital continues to fight every day to overturn the high incidence of mother and infant deaths in childbirth, by providing maternity care, emergency services, wellness checkups, and follow-up care for newborns. Under Dr. Tom Catena’s supervision, additional qualified midwives are being trained here to bring safer childbirth to more women in remote areas.

These advancements to protect women and the unborn are possible because of our donors, who continually support the mission and needs of Mother of Mercy Hospital and Dr. Tom. Each year donors supply nearly all the medicines used to run the hospital and corresponding clinics. Their support has allowed updated equipment and new additions like operating rooms, blood banks, an expanded maternity ward and new children’s wing that save many more lives. Thank you for making a difference.

Would you like to pray for us? Sign up for our email prayer group to receive weekly emails sharing important needs to pray for. You’ll join a faith community around the globe praying to bring hope and help to suffering people in a forgotten part of the world. Click here to find out more.


A Reunion Against the Odds: Boy Raised at Orphanage Finally Meets his Father

Obbo doesn’t remember the day he came to live at St. Bakhita Orphanage. He has no recollection of being entrusted into the care of the faithful Sister Bianca Bii, who has courageously watched over orphans for decades and still oversees 100 children today.

Obbo was just a one week old infant when he arrived at the orphanage. For all intents and purposes, he was an orphan of war – a tragic result of the simple fact that Obbo’s father, Eliakim, was of Eritrean descent, and his mother was Ethiopian.

No sooner had Eliakim and his wife given birth to their one week old son, than a violent and bloody war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia. At that tumultuous time, couples in marriages between Eritreans and Ethiopians were forced to divorce, and families were torn apart. Obbo’s mother fled. A baby boy was caught in the middle. 

Eliakim did not want to abandon his infant son. But in the midst of the conflict he had no way to care for his brand new baby. Having to make a quick and very difficult decision, he brought Obbo to Sister Bianca at St. Bakhita Orphanage. He asked her to take good care of him.

Obbo grew up never knowing any life or family other than that at St. Bakhita Orphanage. If you can call an orphan “lucky,” Obbo was one of the lucky ones to have made it to a place where he was well cared for. Thanks to faithful donors who sponsor St. Bakhita Orphanage, children here have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, clean clothes to wear, their own bed to sleep in, medical care, and the opportunity to go to school.

Obbo lives in a newly constructed building that by the generosity of donors was just completed. The expanded area allows for more children to be taken in. Then one day, an unexpected thing happened. 

A man came to St. Bakhita Orphanage asking about Obbo. It was his father. For the first time in thirteen years, an emotional Eliakim was able to look upon the face of his son. He was moved with gratitude to Sister Bianca that Obbo was well and healthy, and that Eliakim was able to find him after two relocations of the orphanage from where he placed him all those years ago. 

Since the reunion between father and son, Obbo has gone to live with his father and Eliakim’s extended family. Obbo will be completing his studies and getting to know his relatives. He is happy to have the chance to get to know his father – something he never imagined would be possible.

Stories like Obbo’s are possible, but only because St. Bakhita Orphanage was there at a critical moment, and was equipped to care for him and many other children. Thanks to your support, Obbo’s orphan journey has come to a blessed conclusion, and many other orphaned children continue to have a place to call home.

Would you like to pray for us? Sign up for our email prayer group to receive weekly emails sharing important needs to pray for. You’ll join a faith community around the globe praying to bring hope and help to suffering people in a forgotten part of the world. Click here to find out more.

Eating Water Lilies to Keep from Starving

Chronic Flooding Intensifies One of World’s Worst Food Crises

“I am just so, so tired,” says Nyaguey, a 43 year-old mother. Before the land in South Sudan became flooded, she was a corn farmer with a small but livable income. She could buy sugar, coffee, and shoes for her children.

Now her home is submerged and her village is one of the last remnants of land protruding above the water. Her entire days are consumed with slogging through floodwaters for miles, searching endlessly for underwater stalks of the water lily plant that has become her family’s only food source.

Since the waters consumed cropland and reduced livestock to dry bones, desperate residents are eating whatever they can find.

Many who venture into the swampy shoals die from poisonous snakes that lurk in the murky water. Others suffer chronic diarrheal illnesses. All have become undernourished and vastly more susceptible to disease.

Once their bags are filled with stalks, the work is not over. Water lilies are bitter, hard for the body to digest, have little nutrition and require hours of manual labor to cut, pound, dry, and sift in order to make the plant barely edible.

Despite the risks and grueling work, Nyaguey returns each day to repeat the rigorous process. What other choice is there, she asks? “As long as my children are alive,” she says, “I’ll keep going.”

“Even I eat the water lilies, and I’m in government, said Kim Kiir, a local administrator in one of the flood affected regions.”

“We are very, very vulnerable,” said Reik Chatiem, a deputy administrator in the same county.

Parts of South Sudan have been covered by standing floodwaters for years. In a primarily agrarian nation, over one million displaced people fear their livelihood has been swallowed up by an expanse of water the size of Lake Michigan.

So for now, people like Nyaguey will get up and wade through the floodwaters in search of their last food source, and try to survive another day.

Read more here.

Cardinal Blesses Sudan Relief Fund Rescue Boat

Vessel Symbolizes Peace and Hope in Wake of Strife

On February 8, this year’s International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Vatican Cardinal Michael Czerny pronounced a blessing over the Saint Josephine Bakhita and its mission – a rescue boat transporting refugees of Sudan’s war to safety inside South Sudan’s borders.

Since the war began, with the help of our donors, Sudan Relief Fund has been partnering with humanitarian organization, Caritas, and the Diocese of Malakal to fund transportation costs for the boat and provide essential supplies to families fleeing the violence as they arrive in Malakal, South Sudan. 

The blessing was given during the celebration of Mass at the end of the Cardinal’s visit to South Sudan from February 2nd to February 9. 

The occasion marked an opportunity to focus on the ideals of compassion and brotherhood, a message standing in stark contrast to the war that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to South Sudan – as well as pointing to ongoing division that’s plagued the young nation of South Sudan itself.

Christened after Josephine Margaret Bakhita – the patron saint of South Sudan, who is also recognized as the patron saint for slaves and victims of human trafficking – the boat honors St. Bakhita’s legacy of overcoming hardship and responding to oppressors with forgiveness and grace.

The newly constructed vessel, built from a combination of wood and iron, will continue to transport the backlog of stranded refugees desperate to escape Sudan’s war zone – a number that keeps growing daily. Since war broke out last April, the rescue boat has carried thousands of Sudanese refugees on the three-day journey down the river to South Sudan’s northern  border.

Said Cardinal Czerny about the St. Bakhita, “It will be a boat that leaves the storm of conflict, violence, hatred, and vengeance behind, and sails on more peaceful waters where people can live together as brothers and sisters.”

Cardinal Czerny recounted the story of the stalwart and remarkably compassionate woman  who became canonized as Saint Bakhita, a girl seized at age 7 or 8 and conscripted into brutal slavery conditions. Achieving her freedom later in life, she became a devout Catholic and dedicated her life to the Lord, always preaching a message of forgiveness – the same message Cardinal Czerny emphasized to a nation marked by internal strife.

In his presentation, the Cardinal also referred back to Pope Francis’ message, when the leader addressed the people of South Sudan in his visit last February. In that message the Pope underscored themes of freedom from oppression, and restoring humanity as a priority to achieving social and political peace.

“When we enter the logic of fighting, of division among us, of bad feelings one against the other, we lose our humanity,” Cardinal Czerny expressed. “And this is the work that Saint Bakhita teaches us…to humanize ourselves and to humanize others.” 

Sudan Relief Fund remains committed to helping rescue families who desperately need to escape the brutality of the ongoing war in Sudan. We thank you for your continued support that makes this lifesaving mission by riverboat possible for so many.

Read the full article here.

News Report Issues Dire Warning on Hunger in South Sudan

The World Food Program says South Sudan is on the verge of a devastating hunger catastrophe, according to a recent report by Al Jazeera news.
The report highlights the confluence of devastating events that have hit the struggling nation over the past four years, citing widespread flooding and drought that wiped out much of the food supply, and events on the world stage that led to significant reductions in foreign aid.

Now, the report says the population explosion from hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people escaping war by entering South Sudan, is making the existing food crisis that much worse. The displaced arrive at border camps that are overcrowded and under-resourced, in a nation where 75 percent of people already need humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations is calling the situation the world’s worst humanitarian crisis at this time, yet aid response has been slow and vastly insufficient.

Facing a $300 million dollar shortfall in funding, Gemma Snowdon of the World Food Programme said their organization will be able to reach less than 40 percent of the people facing severe food insecurity in South Sudan this year. And out of those, the WFP can only provide 50 percent of the rations actually needed for the most at-risk victims of hunger.

“It’s an extraordinarily tiny amount,” said Snowdon, “It’s amazing that people can survive through it.”

She reiterated that South Sudan has the highest percentage of food insecure people in the whole world.  “We feel like we’re going to see a continuing deterioration (of the situation) in South Sudan, particularly with the added conflict in Sudan pushing people across the border,” Snowdon warned.

UNICEF reports that over 9 million people, including 5 million children, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance to see them through the massive food shortage.

Sudan Relief Fund has been on the ground since the beginning of this crisis, distributing food relief in refugee camps and to vulnerable communities. Your partnership has been and will continue to be critical to save lives from the horror of starvation – a tragedy that can and should be prevented in today’s world. To send immediate help, please go here.

New Education Centre To Open Career Opportunities at Loreto Rumbek

Bridging the Education Gap

Construction is nearly complete on a two-story building slated to become the Education Centre at the Loreto Rumbek school campus in South Sudan.

The Centre, expected to open in mid February, will house a variety of activities and programs, including a number of vocational courses designed to benefit the community and enhance career opportunities for the people of Rumbek. 

Adults will be able to take English classes, computer literacy courses, and learn occupational skills such as tailoring, to help men and women of the community achieve self-sustaining careers and build a skilled community workforce.
Sister Orla Treacy, a longtime partner of Sudan Relief Fund, is the principal of Loreto Schools and directs the campus activities. Sister Orla has long operated on the premise that education is the key to lifting people from poverty and empowering them for successful futures. For many marginalized citizens of South Sudan, attaining valuable career skills isn’t possible without programs like this one at the new Education Centre.

In addition to a co-ed primary school, the secondary school is blazing new paths for girls to achieve educational equality in South Sudan. A health clinic on the campus also serves both the school and the public at large, and is partially staffed by graduates and alumni of the school, who return after completing university degrees.

Raising up a New Generation for Peace

Over 90 youths from Loreto Schools participated in a pilgrimage walk for peace, traversing nearly 80 miles over several days from Rumbek to Tonj, South Sudan. Their theme was “Be Seeds of Hope,” focused on changing the divisive narrative and igniting a generation of adults committed to a peaceful, unified South Sudan. 

Students from different tribes and regions come together from all over the country to learn side by side at Loreto Schools, where part of their holistic education includes an emphasis on being one student body of one South Sudan.  

As the students traveled from village to village, they stopped at parishes along the way to visit with priests and local residents, carrying their message that included teachings from the Pope’s visit to South Sudan in February of last year.

Internship Program Helps Students Achieve Higher Ed

The Internship Program at Loreto Schools is considered one of its most successful initiatives. Recent graduates serve two years working at the school in career-related capacities such as education or healthcare, after which they receive scholarships allowing them to attend any college or university in Nairobi. 

The exchange of volunteer work for future higher education makes attending college or university possible for students who couldn’t otherwise go. Investing in these young people is a win-win, as many return to their home communities or to Loreto Rumbek to serve with their new skills acquired from their college degrees. This inspires other young people to pursue their dreams of higher education and brings a skilled workforce into communities.

This year’s interns gathered for a retreat in Mombasa by the sea, where they spent three days being mentored in key areas of personal and professional development, before returning to begin their third semester of college.

Sudan Relief Fund remains proud to partner with Loreto Schools and support their mission to empower South Sudan’s youth through holistic education and vocational training. Thank you for helping to make this transformation possible.

Hawa Kafi

Mother Finds Critical Help at Only Hospital Able to Treat Her

Even today, tuberculosis remains the deadliest infectious disease killer in the world. It can attack various parts of the body, sometimes without symptoms, where it lurks silently as it multiplies. It may attack different organs, even the spine and brain. It’s also highly contagious.

Thankfully, victims can be cured of TB with appropriate treatment if received in time. Hawa Kafi, a mother living in Kacha – a village in the western Nuba Mountains – knows just how lucky she is to be one of them.

Like many victims, Hawa didn’t know she contracted tuberculosis. Her ailment began with back pain – something easily mistaken for other causes. After dealing with the constant pain in her back for a month, she began to notice pain in her legs also. Then her legs began to swell. Frighteningly, they swelled so much that Hawa couldn’t walk or even get out of bed. Her body also burned with a high fever. 

When this happened, relatives took Hawa to the nearest hospital in Lwere. She stayed there for twelve days, but only grew worse. Fortunately, Hawa was referred by the hospital to Mother of Mercy in Gidel – a Sudan Relief Fund sponsored facility directed by missionary doctor Tom Catena, who serves as the only residing surgeon.

Although she didn’t yet know it, that referral was critical to saving her life. Mother of Mercy is the only hospital in the region capable of treating tuberculosis and equipped with the necessary medicine to fight it. This is possible because generous donors provide funding for TB and other vital medicines to the hospital that enable Mother of Mercy to save lives like Hawa’s.

Hawa endured a six hour drive by truck to make it to the facility which is the only one of its kind for hundreds of miles. When she arrived, she was immediately diagnosed and put on a protocol of powerful antimicrobial TB medicines.

It was a tough road for Hawa. The disease had taken a powerful toll on her body before she found help. But the relentless regimen of treatment eventually turned the tables on her illness. Five months after being admitted, Hawa at last turned a corner and started to improve. She was moved with incredible joy when she could begin to use her legs again and move around with support.

By now Hawa reports she is doing much better, with only a little pain remaining in her back and right knee. She continues to recover steadily. She knows this is only because of a hospital that was there to offer the help she needed, when her life was on the line. 

Dr. Tom and his team work every day to save victims like Hawa from deadly diseases. Your support makes it possible for Mother of Mercy Hospital to maintain vital medicines that are making the difference. Thank you for helping to save lives.

Would you like to pray for us? Sign up for our email prayer group to receive weekly emails sharing important needs to pray for. You’ll join a faith community around the globe praying to bring hope and help to suffering people in a forgotten part of the world. Click here to find out more.

South Sudan Reports Outbreak of Yellow Fever

St. Theresa Takes Steps to Ready Hospital in Nzara

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed thirty cases of the viral disease yellow fever in the Western Equatoria state of South Sudan. As of February 1, six deaths were reported among the thirty cases identified.

Fifteen of the cases occurred in Yambio County where the largest outbreak remains, with seven cases confirmed in Tombura, five in Nzara, two in Ebba, and one instance reported in Ezo. 

South Sudan’s Ministry of Health has activated an emergency operations center and a rapid response team to monitor the outbreak and conduct investigations.

Yellow fever is a bloodborne disease transmitted to victims by mosquitoes, and is considered highly infectious. Early onset symptoms include fever, muscle pain, prominent backache, headache, and loss of appetite, which may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. 

If allowed to progress, yellow fever can result in coma and organ shutdown. The death rate in severe cases is estimated at 50 percent, similar to Ebola. 

Victims can be infected with yellow fever for days before presenting symptoms, which escalates chances of the disease’s spread and the challenge of containing it. 

South Sudan is situated in the yellow fever belt and the nation experienced previous outbreaks in 2003, 2018 and 2020. In the absence of widespread vaccination campaigns, concerns remain that hospitals could quickly become overwhelmed in the event of a large spread of the disease. 

Healthcare professionals are stressing the need for early detection, testing, education, and preventive vaccination measures to contain an outbreak.

St. Theresa Hospital, a Sudan Relief Fund sponsored facility in Nzara, is taking steps to ready its staff and facility. Currently the hospital is working with the World Health Organization and other NGOs to set up isolation areas to treat infected patients and contain the disease.  

Civilians are urged to protect themselves from mosquitoes both day and night by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, treating clothes and gear with repellent sprays, regularly eliminating standing water sources, and utilizing mosquito nets. Travelers are encouraged to receive the vaccine if journeying to an affected area.