Saturday, December 3, 2011

5th Letter From Nzara

Every trip seems to have an in-between time when you have not quite arrived at where you intend to be but have departed from where you once were. Such is the time we are experiencing at the present moment. We took the plane out of Chicago in the early evening, stopped over in London and arrived in Kampala, Uganda around 10:00 the day after we left. We had to spend $280 in weight overcharges because of the two suitcases that we brought with us full of 1100 pairs of eyeglasses of all types and styles. It was well worth the price of being enabled to, in effect, give the gift of sight to another human being. We rested over night in Kampala and then the next day flew to Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan

We are staying in a guest house near All Saints Episcopal Cathedral that is the temporary home of four different missionaries. They include the English Interim Principal of the Juba Seminary, who has resurrected the seminary from near collapse, and his wife who teaches English there in a kind of first year of preparation for further study. The other members of this household are Robin an agricultural specialist, who gave up her room for us to sleep in, and a young English gal who works in Public Relations for the Episcopal Church of Sudan. Robin has strung a sheet across one end of the living room a dis using the area she created as her bedroom.

Each day here is incredibly busy. We no sooner had landed and deposited our baggage in the living room of the guest house than I was off with two of the seminarians from Nzara to scout out possible sources and prices for purchasing bags of cement, sewing machines, paint, iron sheets used for roofing, interior doors, desk chairs, etc. While in the U.S. several donors were found that will enable us to finish building the office building we began in the middle of October. The building needs a roof, interior doors, electrical outlets, paint, and furniture. We will also be building two health clinics as well as a training/youth center that will be located right next to the new office. The building supplies are for those projects.

This new training/youth building will feature an office for the Mothers Union and the youth ministry of the diocese. It will have a large room where stackable tables and chairs can be set out in various configurations for workshops classes and seminars. On Friday and Saturday nights the youth of various age groups can take it over. We are specifically planning on showing movies that we brought with us which include some 50 titles We will charge a small fee of one pound (32 cents) to see the film. These monies can be used by the youth to pay for new electronic instruments they lust after. We’ll also have pop and popcorn available, music, games and outdoor volleyball. The youth here love playing dominoes and so we bought six sets of the little plastic tiles as well as ten packs of playing cards and four checker games. Music can be played by the youth on a CD/tape player. The space can also be rented out to groups holding celebratory events The building of these four new structures was the occasion for this initial scouting and later buying trip to Juba.

In the days since that first afternoon we have revisited some of these places and gone to see new vendors for the things we need to buy that are typically so expensive in Nzara due to its relative isolation The question before us was always could we save enough money by buying things in Juba to justify the cost of hiring a truck to carry everything to Nzara. This morning I finally sat down with the figures I have gathered. So far we have saved $7000 dollars over what we would have paid for the same materials in Nzara. The weight of all our purchases is somewhat over 30,000 metric tons so the truck we do own would have had to make 6 separate trips. The cost of renting a freight hauler is about $2000 dollars so we end up saving over $5000 dollars and we don’t have to subject our precious truck to the horrible roads between here and Nzara.. We have purchased 260 bags of cement, all kinds of electrical supplies 300 sheets of metal roofing, 94 plastic chairs. 14 low plastic tables, 200 gallons of paint and 90 jerry cans of undercoat, 6 desk chairs 150 sheets of ceiling sheets, and nine brand new Singer treadle operated sewing machines.

The sewing machines represent a potentially big financial problem for me. I had to purchase them in Juba because we have absolutely no where to purchase them any where near us Needles, sewing machine oil and spare parts are available for existing machines but the whole idea of being able to afford a new machine is not in the range of the thinking of our local dressmakers and tailors. .My problem is that I don’t actually have in hand the funds to pay for all the machines and the workshop we want to hold that will train three women from each parish on how to use their new machines It was wholly an act of faith that somehow and in someway the money would come through. This is not to say that I did not do all in my power while in the try to plant many seeds in the minds of friends, family, former parishes, and among all the congregations of the Diocese of Iowa that this would be a project worthy of their support. Many indicated a strong interest but thus far actual cash monies have only been received from one congregation and from some old friends. The price of the machine, its transport, three thirty yard bolts of cloth for three women from a parish to work on and the food and housing for those three women for ten days is only $630 dollars. That is a lot of money for either an individual or many congregations to handle but anything anyone can give will be honored and appreciated.

Much of my time in Juba has been spent seeking trying to figure out how things work between various government, UN, various NGO’s and the Province Officials in the ECS office. Do they offer monies for construction of schools or the digging of wells? Are they presently working in the Western Equatorial Province where Nzara is located? Is the government willing to provide salaries for the staffs of health clinics teachers for schools, etc? I have visited the head offices of World Vision, the ECS office, various Roman Catholic relief agencies, Samaritan’s Purse, UNICEF, etc. I have received some valuable information and advice on how things are done, who is doing what and some leads on possible future sources of funding.

In between buying things and visiting offices Karen and II have had a chance to have supper in the home of our old friend, The Archbishop, eat Ethiopian food on a terrace overlooking the Nile River and, celebrate Thanksgiving (sans turkey but with very tasty chicken and real pumpkin pie) with 16 new friends, We had a chance to eat a dish of soft serve ice cream at the only ice cream parlor in Juba, meet the five seminarians from Nzara who are presently students at the Juba Seminary and dine on such delicacies as pizza and hamburgers.

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