Sudanese Community raises $72,000 to build girls school in Sudan

20/12/2010

Sydney's Sudanese Catholic Community has managed to raise $72,000 for the second stage of construction for a Mary MacKillop school for Girls in southern Sudan.

"We should have the roof on by Christmas and be able to complete work on two more classrooms," says Anna Dimo, the Archdiocese of Sydney's full-time pastoral worker with the city's Sudan community in Sydney.

The daughter of a school principal who firmly believed girls should receive an education despite the fact there were almost no schools for girls in South Sudan, Anna was forced to flee her war-torn homeland and 2000 arrived in Sydney with five of her children and three nieces and nephews.

Having made her home in Australia, Anna who had trained as a teacher and for whom education was a passion, became determined to give women in South Sudan similar opportunities.

Taking Mary MacKillop's firm belief that "to educate a woman was to educate a nation" as her inspiration, Anna dreamed of setting up a secondary school for girls in the South Sudan and to help make this a reality, founded the South Sudan Education for Girls Appeal (SSEG).

"Currently less than one per cent of girls over the age of 12 are able to attend secondary school but we hope not only to change that but to see girls from South Sudan go on to university," says Anna.

Anna will fly to South Sudan in early January 2011 to check on construction, begin employing teachers and to encourage families to enrol their daughters. But this week, Jonathan Ngor who shares Anna's passion for education and her vision for Sudan's Mary MacKillop College will head for Aweil, his former hometown, carrying the funds needed for the next stage of the school's construction.

Like Anna, Jonathan who is vice president of SSEG, was forced to flee his troubled country during its long and bloody civil war. As a seven-year-old, he had to leave his village and his beloved father and many of his siblings and with his mother, and four year old sister, make the arduous three month journey on foot from Sudan to Ethiopia.

Evading lions and the rebel army by hiding in bushes, tragedy struck as the group crossed the Nile and Jonathan could do little but watch in horror as his beloved mother drowned and his little sister,  swept away.

He would discover later, his father had also been killed.

On arrival in Ethiopia became what are now known as "the Lost Boys of Sudan." Orphaned and alone, he managed to survive but with Ethiopia also wracked by civil war, his new country offered little shelter or safety. Then after a hand to mouth existence, at age 20 he finally was given a visa to Australia.

Arriving in 2003, at age 20, Jonathan has made a new life for himself and by pure chance was reunited with the sister he thought he had lost.

Today Jonathan is not only a Sudanese Family Support Worker with CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta, but has almost completed a degree in economics. He says with no access to education when he was young, he is a passionate supporter of the SSEG project.

"All of us who know South Sudan and grew up there know how important this project is," Jonathan says, adding that the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Catholic Education Office (CEO) have also championed the project and given it their full support.

Mark Rix, Communications Director for CEO, was instrumental in arranging for the SSEG to appointed the official charity during the two-day Ben Hur Live Spectacular at Sydney's ANZ Stadium in October, with permission for the group to fund-raise at both of the sold-out performances. In addition, the SSEG Appeal was promoted in the official program and on giant screens set up around the arena.

"We are also extremely grateful for the wonderful generosity of the ANZ stadium and the stadium CEO Darryl Kerry who donated $10,000 towards our fund," says Anna.

Fundraising for South Sudan's Mary MacKillop College for girls will continue. To find out more about the school and the SSEG Appeal log on to www.sseg.org.au


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