Don’t take anything for granted. It’s something that was evident to me while witnessing an amazing life-passage for 34 people.
I attended the first graduation of Lietnhom Vocational Training Center in South Sudan. Thirty-two men and two women, for the first-time ever, now have skills to earn a living.
These men and women never finished school. Only one made it to high school, and dropped out after one year because the school fees were too expensive. Others had some elementary school; others had no education at all.
Most of them never really had a chance. War here in Sudan forced many of them to move as refugees in their own country. Finishing school hardly an option, considering they faced generations of poverty – and no history of education.
One man I met is named Joseph, and he traveled here to this rural area from Wau. He’s apart from his family, but considers the year here as a great investment in his family’s future. He celebrated today, reminded of South Sudan’s independence one month ago from Sudan. The independence brings hope of peace at last.
“I give thanks to God,” Joseph said. “The life of Southern Sudan and my own life are synonymous. It is a new beginning.”
Joseph showed me one of his new skills: repairing engines. With confidence, he scoured the engine of an old World Concern truck to try and identify an electrical problem. He’s smart – and has a great chance to find work close to his family.
“None of my forefathers have had these skills,” he smiled, as he proudly waved his certificate for completing the program.
World Concern began this job-training program last year, and since then, other non-profits have joined us in the mission. The work is difficult, and certainly not a hand-out.
The leader of the program, Mechanics Trainer Moses Khamadi, says the students grow more committed over time.
One graduate now plans to complete secondary school, which gives him a shot a college. Moses says there are many opportunities for these new graduates.
“The mechanics are already fixing motorbikes locally and making money,” Moses said. “Initially when we began, some thought they were wasting their time. But they began to realize that if they work, they’ll get money. They can buy food and something to improve their livelihoods.”
Although the context differs, I see this spark of life time and again when visiting World Concern development projects across the world. When we work in a meaningful way with people, they realize that life is not hopeless. They realize they have value. In spite of their poverty, they find reason after reason to continue on.