This is a story straight from a poor village in South Sudan. World Concern President David Eller is visiting Sudan right now, checking out how we are equipping the local people to learn skills and live better lives.
On Wednesday we drove out to one of our field locations about two hours away on a dirt road. There were military checkpoints along the way. At one such stop our Sudan Country Director, Peter Macharia, had to get out and talk for a while before we were allowed to continue.
This is a newly created town with many people settling there that have fled violence in other parts of the state. Florence is one of our field officers and started working with a women’s group there in December. They met twice a week for two months to learn skills in cooking, baking, yogurt making, grain grinding, hygiene, life, business and biblical values.
One of the women involved in the group, Arek, was pregnant during the training but she did not want to miss any of it. She would lay on a mat at the back of the group to listen and learn. The baby was born between classes and she was at the next class with the baby in her lap.
The group calls themselves Pundak which means doubting the government. They went to the government for help and received none. Now that World Concern has come and their situations have changed, they have talked of changing their name.
Each day they bake rolls in a new charcoal oven they bought from profits, which does a better job than the brick oven they used to use. They sell a bag of ten fresh rolls in the market for $2. When we arrived they were finishing a batch of rolls. Nothing like bread fresh from the oven-the rolls were warm and tasty. They also make 40 liters of yogurt a day to sell in the market. They have built a restaurant out of tin sheets to start a lunch time business and catering services.
Awal is another group member who has a difficult past. She has five children and her husband has moved to Juba, abandoning the family with no support. She could only afford to send one child to school so she sent her young son, Aken. School costs $10 a year plus a $10 uniform and writing materials fee. Awal said she was very miserable.
After joining the women’s group and receiving training she became the lead baker for the group. With her share of the group profits (30% of sales) she has been able to care for her family and has sent her older daughter Abuk to school for the first time.
Awal opened a restaurant of her own in the market just 12 days ago. It is built from wood poles covered in plastic tarps with a hard dirt floor. There is a cooking area up front and a customer seating area in back where she serves local dishes and fresh bread. In her first 12 days of operations she has made a $30 profit. I was very impressed that she knew her profitability. It is not an easy concept, but she said she was well trained by Florence to keep track of profits.
Awal is a great example of a life being transformed. She, and others like her, are the reason God has called us to this ministry.