Ben Hur's big heart helps build Mary MacKillop College in Sudan

21/10/2010

BEN HUR The Stadium Spectacular
A scene from the 2006 Stade de France production of Ben Hur.

While many thousands are eagerly awaiting the spectacular stadium event BEN HUR – The Stadium Spectacular, on the other side of the world in Aweil – a town in Southern Sudan – locals are just as excited about what it all might mean for their small community.

A unique partnership between ANZ Stadium and the charity Southern Sudan Educates Girls (SSEG) will see a major fundraising project take place at both performances of BEN HUR – The Stadium Spectacular on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 October, that will help to build a Catholic secondary school for girls in a Southern Sudanese town that was ravaged by violent civil war that results in the loss of many lives.

Building a better life for young girls in the Sudan

Ben Hur The Stadium Spectacular
'Very much a Catholic story'...the epic of Ben Hur.
ANZ Stadium Managing Director Daryl Kerry said that while excitement was building for the stadium version of the classic Charlton Heston movie, he was equally excited that ANZ Stadium could support a project as worthy as this.

“The Ben Hur story is very much a Catholic story,” Mr Kerry said. “When we became aware of what this small group of people were doing to build a better life for young girls in a place that has suffered such terrible loss, we were very keen to get onboard. The school being built with funds from the appeal will be called Mary MacKillop College which is so appropriate with the Canoniation of Australia’s first Saint.”

Spokesperson for SSEG, Mark Rix, said that the relationship with ANZ Stadium had been a close one right from the start.

“Right from the moment we began exploring what might be possible with the fundraising for the school, the staff at ANZ Stadium have done everything they could to make it happen,” he said.

They have been incredibly generous and accommodating in every way.”

The support from ANZ Stadium has included:

  • Providing a $10,000 donation to the SSEG Appeal
  • Facilitating fundraising at the venue on both performance evenings (22 and 23 October)
  • Including a one-page promotion of the project in the official Ben Hur program
  • Promoting of the SSEG Appeal on the stadium’s large screens and on their audio loop on both nights
  • Making available a significant number of tickets to the show for distribution to students and their families who might otherwise have never had the opportunity to attend.

In Southern Sudan, less than one per cent of all girls over the age of 12 get to attend secondary school. In a community where the thirst for education is so powerful, Mary MacKillop College will be the first step in providing this opportunity to thousands of Sudanese girls.

'Living without fear or persecution'

Jonathon Ngor
Centacare Catholic Social Services Sudanese Family Support Worker and St Anthony’s Toongabbie Parishioner Jonathon Ngor
A prime mover behind the formation of SSEG living in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta is himself a survivor of the horrors of war in Southern Sudan.

The story of Centacare Catholic Social Services Sudanese Family Support Worker and St Anthony’s Toongabbie Parishioner Jonathon Ngor mirrors that of many of his compatriots.

The war tore his family of apart, and attempts by his mother to reunite with his father in Ethiopia saw Jonathon orphaned at age seven.

He grew up in the care of a Catholic orphanage where one of the good fortunes of his life had been the guidance of Fr Dominic Majok.

“He is an impressive man. He stood up to the army when they wanted to take us. He was like a father to all of us orphans,” Jonathon said.

Jonathon later moved to a refugee camp and from there was accepted into Australia under the humanitarian assistance program. He contrasted life in Ethiopia, where his first waking thought was self-protection, to the pride he feels as an Australian citizen “living without fear or persecution in a free society”.

Jonathon said among the Sudanese expatriates in Australia was a strong desire to help their suffering countrymen in Sudan rebuild the fabric of civil society.

In this spirit, he formed SSEG to build the girls’ boarding school in Aweil after a fact-finding trip to Sudan. Jonathon said the school will allow girls to obtain high school education and train for professions such as nursing, teaching and administration.

Challenges for Sudanese community in Western Sydney

Many of the Sudanese who have made Western Sydney their home are Catholic. One characteristic is their youth, with 70 per cent under the age of 30.

Jonathon said there were challenges for the Sudanese community in assimilation, liaising with government departments, housing, enrolling children in schools and adults in English intensive courses, and finding jobs.

His fluency in eight languages casts him as translator, advocate and adviser.

The BEN HUR SSEG Appeal is being hosted by Catholic Mission. To find out more about SSEG or to contribute to the appeal, go to http://www.sseg.org.au/  

Related:

Ben Hur: the epic legend with a stage to match

 


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