(Editor’s note: This is the third of three stories about the ongoing peace and relief work of the church in South Sudan. Stories on a new peace initiative and relief work among internally displaced people in their native country appeared last week.)
JEWI REFUGEE CAMP, ETHIOPIA (November 16, 2015) — The fresh okra Priscilla Nyakek Deng stood holding next to a garden project she coordinates in the Jewi Refugee Camp seemed symbolic for a life that once seemed impossible. She had traveled more than a month fleeing South Sudan in search of safety.
Earlier this year, project managers for the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan, chose Deng to lead the church’s Jewi Garden Refugee Project. The objective of JGRP is to develop the skills of the refugee widows in agriculture and encourage them to practice agricultural activities that will help support them financially.
The widows are growing vegetables that include okra, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and green leaf cabbage.
Mathew Jock Moses, the ECCSS projects and social development director, said, “The project is pivotal and saves and transforms the lives of the vulnerable groups in the refugee camp.”
Deng has been vulnerable to violence most of her life in the nation that fought for its independence and then soon after plunged into civil war. So far, roughly 290,000 people have fled from South Sudan into neighboring countries.
Deng’s escape was chronicled in an online Companion news report earlier this year. On Christmas Eve 2013 Deng saw her husband gunned down in front of her and her two children. Eight and a half months pregnant, she left the next day and gave birth to twins in an abandoned village along the route to the Ethiopian border.
After several more weeks of walking, during which she had to keep her family safe from lions, wild dogs, and crocodiles, as well as bandits, she finally made her way to the Lietchuor Refugee Camp. “I never thought I would make it. I thought we would die,” she said in February. “But God gave me strength. When I get tired, I pray.”
Because the low-lying Lietchuor camp suffered waist-high flooding in 2014, the United Nations moved Deng and more than 48,000 other refugees to the Jewi camp, which is located in a mountainous region outside of Gambela in western Ethiopia.
The ECCSS had supported her with food, clothing, shelter, and other services in the Lietchuor camp through its Vulnerable and Orphan Children (VOC) community project.
Mathew said that the VOC project continues to help the people. Many of them, like Deng, had suffered through multiple conflicts.
Martha Nyahot Chol and her children were pictured in the main photo of the story. She and her blind daughter, Chigok Tangal (second from left) are receiving assistance in multiple ways. Chigok, who became blind after birth, receives medical supports and education for the visually impaired. Martha is now in her second year learning finance and accounting through vocational training at the Open Polytechnical College near Gambella. When her training is complete, she will be able to provide for her entire family.
Nyahok Thok Rueh, left, and Nyatut Chop Zuor continue to expand their sewing business and receive ongoing microfinance training. The ECCSS held a two-day microfinance seminar last month. Zuor, who escaped Malakal, South Sudan, with her four children named her daughter “Machine” in gratitude for the assistance she received from World Mission and Covenant World Relief.