A Canadian Presence in South Sudan

Canadian Aid for South Sudan (CASS) is working to help the people of South Sudan rebuild their lives and communities after decades of brutal war.

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Background

Jane Roy and Glen Pearson in Sudan

Jane Roy and Glen Pearson in Sudan

Glen Pearson and Jane Roy are the volunteer national representatives of CASS.Jane Roy is a veteran of many disaster and relief crises. Her volunteer activism has taken her to Rwanda, Iraq (during the Gulf War), Somalia, Guatemala and Sudan. She has written many newspaper articles to promote awareness of both the opportunities and responsibilities facing Canadians.Glen Pearson has been involved in Third World issues ranging from Bangladesh to Guatemala and brings his experience in political activism and public education to the work of Canadian Aid for South Sudan. He has served as volunteer director of the London Food Bank for 18 years. Both Glen and Jane Roy have served terms as head of Ontario’s Association of Food Banks and have consulted with provincial and federal governments regarding poverty issues. Glen Pearson is a 28-year veteran and captain in the London Fire Department.

The efforts of this husband and wife team have brought the plight of the people of southern Sudan to national and international attention. And their work continues through CASS.

Having been asked to direct their attention to the education of former slave children, Pearson and Roy expanded that original proposal to include educating former child soldiers and especially girls in those communities who had little opportunity for education.

Through CASS, Pearson and Roy continue to fundraise for the building of school classrooms, the establishing of women’s programs, the development of leadership and vocational training, assistance for returning refugees, support for the local medical clinic, and clean water initiatives in partnership with the Water School.

CASS: Early history . . .

In August of 1998, Jane Roy journeyed to Sudan in an effort to assist those suffering under the man-made famine, spending the month documenting what she saw and experienced. It was then that she interviewed an escaped slave and became more aware of the tragedies that surround the issues of modern-day slavery. She returned to Canada determined to provide average Canadians with the opportunity to free those still trapped in slavery in northern Sudan and to assist them once they were freed.

In December of 1998, with Glen Pearson, she launched the Slave Redemption Program. Interest in the program grew quickly, with Jane handling interviews from numerous news agencies including the CBC, BBC and Reuters. Within four months Canadians from across the country had donated $60,000, paving the way for the freeing of 800 slaves in May of 1999.

In March of 1999, Glen and Jane met with External Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy to announce their intention of journeying to southern Sudan in an effort to use the Canadian donations exclusively for the freeing of slaves. Then in May, along with an independent documentary film maker, newspaper representatives and CBC Television, Glen and Jane delivered on that promise, liberating slaves and holding extensive interviews with community leaders.

In May of 1999, Roy and Pearson led a team including CBC television, the London Free Press, and a documentary crew into the southern regions to document the realities of modern day slavery. Slavery in Sudan itself had been confirmed by two United Nations representatives, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. Yet few comprehended its real effects on the people of south Sudan.

Working in conjunction with Christian Solidarity International, Pearson and Roy took Maclean’s magazine to the south in March 2000, and that trip became the cover story for the magazine’s April 10th edition. In April of 2001, Maclean’s covered Member of Parliament Joe Fontana’s trip to southern Sudan in the company of CASS.

It was during this trip that Governor Deng Alore introduced Fontana to the urgent problem of the need for schooling for all those children suffering through the struggles of civil war. The Canadian politician interviewed a number of these children and their community leaders and encouraged Roy and Pearson to seek Canadian support for educational and vocational needs. Canadian Aid for South Sudan is the result of that challenge.

During July of 2001, these two Canadians visited the south of Sudan for the sixth time and saw firsthand the pressing need for suitable schools for Sudanese children. Regardless of whether the children were established members of the local communities or recently returned from bondage in the north, the desire for education was extremely high. The resources required to fulfill this potential were lacking.

In the locations of Aweil East County and Twic County there was a high degree of commitment for schooling by the children and their parents, but there wasn’t enough money to retain teachers. Unable to fend for themselves, teachers could not attend to their students, and the classrooms remained full but untutored. Even in areas where schools are established, the shortage of a few hundred dollars per annum can spell the difference whether hundreds of students receive schooling or not.

In April of 2002 Roy and Pearson met with southern government officials, including the Minister of Education, and heard more compelling reasons why Canadians need to assist. As a result, they travel across Canada, telling of the challenges in the south of Sudan and the tremendous opportunities that exist for educating children whom time seems to have forgotten.

Acting as an informal link between the Canadian government and the provisional government of southern Sudan, Pearson and Roy pieced together a proposal that would bring about joint cooperation for a program to build primary schools, rehabilitate former slave children and child soldiers and elevate the educational and vocational opportunities for girls and women. Both Twic and Aweil East Counties were selected as the target areas for this joint effort. In an August 2002 trip, Canadian Aid for South Sudan also established the New Sudan YMCA/YWCA for the children of the south.

In 2004 Roy and Pearson met with Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Canadian government funds were acquired for school construction, women’s literacy programs and recreational programs. 2 schools were constructed by 2007, and funds are still being raised for a badly needed Secondary School in the region.