News Notes is about current developments in CASS projects.
February, 2008 – During January 2008 3 different teams were sent by CASS into southern Sudan. These teams met with the people and checked in on projects in the region. The team met with refugees from the Darfur region to discuss needs and what can be done. From followups after the trip, it appears that the Canadian government is planning on providing $3 million in aid through the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Other teams delivered medical supplies to the clinic in Gordhim, met with local business people running some of the micro enterprises supported by CASS, and ran music and art camps for refugee children. One team also met with local leaders and partner organizations to discuss how to start the Water School (a project to provide a simple means of purifying contaminated water). Follow the link for more detailed information on the 2008 January Trip. You may also be interested in reading theSpring 2008 Newsletter.
November, 2007 – CASS has decided to partner with the Water School, an organization that has developed a simple yet effective way of reducing water contamination. Recent reports have shown that one of the biggest obstacles to continued development in many areas of Africa, and particularly in South Sudan, is access to clean drinking water. Studies by the Water School have shown that in some countries, half of the deaths of children under 5 can be linked to contaminated water and lack of sanitation. Making this problem even more urgent in southern Sudan is the fact that climate change is reducing the availability of fresh water: the Sahara desert continues to expand from the North, the rainy seasons are getting shorter, water tables are lower, and crop yields are decreasing due to reduced rainfall.
CASS and the Water School are putting together a plan for Southern Sudan to purify contaminated water simply and easily. The idea is to provide plastic water bottles which can be filled with water and then left in the sun on special corrugated metal sheets. The UV rays of the sun purify the water of all contaminants, resulting in safe drinking water. To make this program a reality requires the finances to supply the bottles and metal sheets, and the implementation of a broad-based educational program to help the local Sudanese run the program effectively. You can read more about the water crisis in Sudan, and the partnership between CASS and the Water School, in the fall 2007 newsletter.
February, 2007 – In January 2007, 15 Canadians travelled to Darfur along with Glen Pearson and Jane Roy. This marked the first trip to Sudan for a group of London businesswomen who have called themselves “Passion for Sudan”. This group had a busy agenda following up on several projects, setting the groundwork for new projects, and meeting with many of the people of Sudan to make connections and learn about their current needs.
Great progress has been made on several projects, including Abuk’s Herd, and the sewing machine micro-enterprises designed to help women entrepeneurs earn a living for themselves and their families. The group was also able to participate in the opening of the Canada School, which was started last year on a previous CASS trip to Sudan. The Canada school, originally designed for 800, is now being used by over 1100 students. The women of “Passion for Sudan” also helped to raise money for a grinding mill, which is being established as a co-operative run by a group of local Sudanese businesswomen.
This trip was also marked by the discovery of tens of thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict in Darfur. Fleeing the conflict in that region, these people are living in temporary grass shelters that have been erected by the local communities. Supplying the basic necessities of life have quickly overwhelmed the resources available in this region. CASS is taking action on this crisis by lobbying the Goverment of Canada to provide immediate aid.
For more information about the activities of CASS on this most recent trip to Sudan, you may wish to read or download thenewsletter (pdf, 770 kb). You may also be interested in reading the personal reflections of several of the people who participated in this trip.
February 8, 2006 – The recent trip to south Sudan is the largest we had ever undertaken. Altogether, 14 people from London, Ontario travelled as a team to Aweil East to undertake a number of projects. Four firefighters volunteered their vacation time to assist in the construction of the “Canada School.” In conjunction with recently demobilized child soldiers, the firefighters sought to build the two large buildings that will house the entire primary education centre. Also present were a number of local business leaders who journeyed with CASS to Sudan to continue the expansion of the numerous micro-enterprises we have started through our Smart Aid program. Alex Lau worked with local women to improve the sewing initiative that will eventually see women selling to their work to various markets. Jeff Lang is working with us to provide clean and sustainable water to the region. Shaun Elliot, executive director of the local YWCA, undertook an assessment for how the London “Y” can assist our various recreational programs there. London’s own A-Channel also sent a team of two on the trip, including the co-host of the six o’clock news. Highlights of the trip were shown at the six o’clock hour the week following the team’s return and plans are there to edit a documentary for a later showing. Numerous lessons were learned on the trip that will assist us in the future in delivering our programs more effectively. For the Sudanese on the ground it had become clear that the people of Canada were investing heavily in their region and the sheer size of the team gave them great hope for the future. The team returned at the end of January and will begin the process of developing future plans for the region.
August 8, 2005 – Jane left today for her one month trip to south Sudan. With the recent death of SPLA leader and Sudanese vice-president John Garang (see Glen’s related newspaper article in the “Media” page) her trip couldn’t be better timed. While Sudan enters a time of uncertainty due to his loss, it is important that the people of the Aweil East region be assured that CASS will continue with their planned projects in the area and that everything is on schedule for our large team trip to Aweil East this coming January. During that time firefighters from London, Ontario and a number of business leaders will be accompanying us to erect the Canada School and move ahead with the various Smart Aid projects. It is Jane’s hope to journey into the Darfur area to solidify contacts and open the door for new Smart Aid operations. This will already be the third trip to south Sudan by CASS officials this year, with two more planned by the end of 2005. Clearly things are developing in a significant way.
May 16, 2005 – Glen Pearson, Jane Roy just returned from spending last week in Ottawa, meeting with federal politicians and moving the Sudan agenda forward. Ongoing meetings were held with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Senator Romeo Dallaire, CIDA minister Aileen Carroll and others. CASS’s new Smart Aid initiative has been picked up with great interest by the Prime Minister and further discussion will establish something of a timeline whereby the various micro-enterprises can be up and running within the next eight months. Both the Prime Minister and Senator Dallaire have expressed interest in our assisting with some similar initiatives in the Darfur region as a result of Paul Martin’s new initiative on Darfur. Many will know that Independent MP David Kilgour has been threatening to vote against the government if it doesn’t do even more on the Darfur issue. Kilgour has been a key supporter of CASS since our initial involvement in Sudan in 1999. Nevertheless, Kilgour was encouraged by CASS to support Martin on the issue because of his attempts to establish a larger coalition around the world. In the meeting with Kilgour, and subsequent phone discussions, CASS encouraged him to stay at the table, assisting all of us to move towards a permanent Darfur solution. Paul Martin’s initiative is a good start; we must now build on it. Our frequent trips to Ottawa permit us to keep federal politicians up-to-date on developments in Sudan, but this recent trip has been one of the most important to-date.
April 24, 2005 – CASS has just finished two assessment missions in south Sudan, the first in January and the second in April. The growing peace and security in the Aweil East region of the south is spreading, opening new doors for our programming. Through our sponsorship of the YWCA in that region, women’s soccer and volleyball activities have proceeded at a hectic pace. CASS officials were fortunate enough to be the guests of the local commissioner for the first-ever official women’s soccer game held in the south. Hundreds came from the region to witness the event and it was clear that a new day was dawning in Sudan. But there was much more. Abuk’s Herd continues to expand, as do our plans for education. Through our partnership with the Government of Canada (CIDA), two primary schools are in the process of construction – a huge boost to the people of the area. Equally exciting has been the launching of Smart Aid,CASS’s new initiative around assisting southern Sudanese to establish their own businesses. Canadian businesses are now coming on-line, making charitable contributions to Smart Aidand enhancing these opportunities in the region. All profits made are turned right back into the local communities, providing seed money for the launching of new initiatives as well as assisting to fund the schools CASS in constructing. Smart Aid represents an exciting new dimension to the work of Canadian Aid for South Sudan. You’ll be hearing more about this as the months go on.
January 9, 2005 – On this very special day CASS was at the ceremony in Nairobi to witness the final signing of the preliminary peace accord between north and south Sudan after years of effort. The joy was contagious. What difference this will make to our efforts in south Sudan we can only guess. However, one thing is certain: this is the moment the people of south Sudan have waited for and it’s vital that CASS come through with its programming. Canadians have been so generous and we must make sure to let the people of Aweil East in south Sudan know of that generosity. But for now Africa’s longest-running civil war is coming to an end. There is much to do, but it’s important that right now we take the time to celebrate.
December 15, 2004 – CASS received a wonderful surprise a few weeks ago with a transfer of funds from St. Bride’s School in Cowdenbeath, Scotland. The 27 students held some fundraising events in October and when it was all totaled up they had raised over $500. The students requested that the funds go towards CASS projects directly in Sudan. We offer a special thanks to principal Carol Hannah and teacher Frances Patterson for inspiring their students to think of the educational needs in a country so far away. It is precisely efforts such as this that provide hope to the aspiring students of south Sudan.
November 14, 2004 – Things are beginning to take shape for our planned visit to south Sudan in January 2005. We have received our first installment of CIDA funding and we are in the process of attempting to raise $70,000 for the proposed “Canada School.” This will be a full primary education centre designed to be a permanent reminder to the people of the south of Canadian compassion. For three weeks in October we had Father Thomas Oliha from south Sudan here with us in Canada. We had brought him over specifically to educate Canadians on the challenges and opportunities in the south. Father Thomas directs the Mission where CASS has been targeting its programs and has a parish of over 300,000 people – clearly he needs all the assistance we can offer him. We are in the process of preparing the contracts for the construction of the one primary school in Gordhim and if we are able to raise the funds for the second school – the Canada school – we will have made a vital difference in an area where the needs are so great. A special highlight of ours was a visit to see Sheila Martin, wife of our Prime Minister, in Ottawa to speak about the Sudanese challenge in general and what CASS is doing specifically. Everyone is aware that there is much to be done yet in Sudan and Sheila Martin’s interest in the challenge was encouraging to us. And so we leave for Sudan in mid-January to begin the process of construction of the two schools and to oversee the YMCA/YWCA, women’s literacy, Abuk’s Herd and rehabilitation of child soldiers programs that are already in full swing. As the conclusion to the peace talks come tantalizingly close, a new spirit is in the air in southern Sudan. While all agree that the Darfur situation is serious and requires dedicated international attention, there is also a general sense of hope that for the rest of southern Sudan peace might finally have a clear chance of success.
Crisis in Darfur, Sudan – August 7, 2004 – We are often asked about what CASS is doing about the deeply troubling developments in Darfur, Sudan. Our efforts there are minimal in nature, though we are attempting to draw attention to the crisis during our numerous meetings with elected officials in Ottawa, as well as with a number of media outlets. Our mandate is limited to the Bahr El Ghazal region and in those areas some real strides have been made. In the long term, however, it will be the effectiveness of the peace in the areas we are working in that will set the framework for eventual peace in Darfur — the two are related. As we build schools, rehabilitate child soldiers, provide women’s literacy and care for the reintegration of slaves back into their home communities, we will only be strengthening the peace templates that will eventually come to be applied in Darfur. It is a tragic moment in history. On the other hand, while 35,000 people have already died in Darfur, over 2,000,000 died in the past number of years in the rest of the country. It was even more serious in the areas we are presently working in and they are now edging toward peace. In other words, hope is justified here but can never be attained without patience. (see Diplomacy’s Ultimate Challenge on the Media page)
August 5, 2004 – As the prospect of peace in the Bahr El Ghazal region of south Sudan comes tantalizingly close, CASS redoubled its efforts at getting the Canadian government more intensely involved “on the ground” in south Sudan. And now, finally, following a few years of effort, we are glad to report that CIDA, the Canadian government’s humanitarian arm, has agreed to provide funding for the building of a large primary school in the former war front area of south Sudan. With these vitally needed funds, CASS will spend the next few months acquiring the needed supplies, such as cement, timber, metal roofing, etc. Then in January of 2005 the construction of the school will commence, hopefully to be completed a few months later. Some of the CIDA funding will go towards women’s literacy classes and with establishing the YMCA/YWCA in other areas of Sudan. While the CIDA donation has been timely and appreciated, what is most vital is that we can now show Canadian compassion in practical terms over the course of the next few years. No longer will we have to face the questions regarding Canada’s lack of involvement in development programs in south Sudan.
March 5, 2004 – With the prospect of peace in Sudan becoming more and more likely, we
spent a few days in Ottawa meeting with federal ministers and bureaucrats regarding an appropriate response to the developing situation in Sudan. The highlight of the week was our one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin. Martin has opted to have Canada make more of a difference in Africa and we attempting to remind him of this country’s responsibility in light of our tarnished image following the presence of Canadian oil firm Talisman in Sudan. The Prime Minister listened intently and appeared most interest in our observations regarding the peace talks presently being held in Kenya, and which Jane and I attended while in Africa in January. Paul Martin also expressed a willingness to speak with other government ministers regarding federal support for school projects in Sudan.
October 2, 2003 – Three important developments transpired in the last month that could have a significant impact on Canadian Aid for South Sudan, as well as for the country of Sudan.
First, and most importantly, a preliminary peace agreement between north and south Sudan has just been signed by both parties and bodes well for the coming year. The most thorny issues of the peace negotiations concerned the security arrangements in the country as a whole generally and the presence of a northern army in the south specifically. Following delicate discussions, the government of north Sudan has finally agreed to the withdrawing of most of its army from the southern areas. Should this transpire, it will have a huge impact on the development of southern Sudan. While details are still sketchy, the preliminary plan is to have a six-year transition period in which both north and south will work together on peaceful activities that will hopefully result in the southern regions finally achieving the recognition they have struggled for over the last two decades. At the end of that six year process a referendum will be held, in which the people of the south can choose to stay within a unified Sudan or vote for independence. The next few months will reveal whether the opportunity for peace in the war-torn country might at last be achievable.
Second, we just returned from Washington D.C., where we met with a number of congressional leaders regarding development projects in southern Sudan. A sincere interest has been expressed in both our educational projects as well as in our expansion of the YM/YWCA branches in Twic and Aweil East Counties. Then we journeyed to Ottawa for meetings with Canadian government politicians and officials regarding our projects. In this as well there was interest expressed in the school projects, especially in light of the new and tentative peace agreement in Sudan, and tentative funding proposals have been established.
Third, we have been asked to facilitate ongoing political negotiations between the U.S. and Canadian government regarding shared projects in the development of south Sudan. This will involve journeying back and forth between the two national capitals in the next few months. This is an initiative we began working on last year at about this time and now seems to be coming to fruition in light of new political realities in Canada.
January 20, 2003 – We returned from Africa yesterday, following a two-week assessment survey of our various projects for south Sudan. The news has been encouraging. Though the development of the New Sudan YMCA/YWCA has faced numerous difficulties due to the ongoing civil war, new branches are about ready to be launched, with funding that has come exclusively from CASS and a large group of generous Canadians. Plans are underway to expand into more remote areas of Twic County and to enhance resource and athletic programs designed to assist former child slaves and child soldiers.
It was exciting the see the beginning of the construction of the six new primary schools CASS is building in cooperation with the Irish relief group GOAL — one of our ongoing partners. The first building is going up and is expected to be completed in the next few months. All told, 1200 children will be attending these schools – 200 in each building. The entire project should be completed within this coming year. Finally, though plans to proceed with the rehabilitation of the secondary school in Yargot have been repeatedly frustrated due to its location near the front lines, negotiations have now been completed which will see the local communities around the school begin the process of making bricks for the buildings. It had been CASS’s hope to acquire Canadian government funds through CIDA to accomplish the project. Once it became clear that CIDA desired to wait until a peaceful solution is found to the country’s civil war before it undertook this development project, the board of CASS opted to attempt to raise the $100,000 privately for the completion of the school. This will represent a significant challenge in this next year, but with the bricks presently being formed, hopes are high that the project will proceed at a steady pace. CASS representatives will be visiting this area once again this coming September (2003) to move onto the next stage of the project.
October 17, 2002 – The last two months have been a whirlwind of activity. Shortly after arriving back from our last trip to Sudan we took Member of Parliament Joe Fontana to Washington D.C. for meetings with some key senators and congressional leaders who are focused on the problems of Sudan. We introduced Fontana to Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman Frank Wolfe and Congressman Donald Paine. In addition, we received briefings from USAID officials as well as a key congressional researcher. We put the plans in place for a joint Canadian/American political initiative designed to assist the leaders of southern Sudan in developing a democratic government. Then in early-October, we held a series of meetings in Ottawa with the CIDA minister, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Secretary of State for Africa. The sessions were productive, focusing on the joint Canadian/American initiative and CASS’s efforts to build a secondary school in Aweil East County in southern Sudan. Special discussions were held concerning CASS’s launching of the YMCA/YWCA. With all the meetings in Washington and Ottawa, it appears movement is being made on the Sudan issue by the Canadian government.
August 28, 2002 – Although we had been to Africa for two trips in April and May of this year, we felt it necessary to journey back to Sudan for three specific reasons. First, there was the need to finally get the YMCA/YWCA up and operating. We had met Peter Ring, National Coordinator for the “Y” in south Sudan three years ago. Despite repeated efforts to get the organization off the ground, Peter had been unable to acquire sufficient funding. Thanks to our generous CASS supporters, Peter now has the resources necessary to start up 8 branches of the “Y” in south Sudan. We will be channeling more funds to that organization as it spreads throughout the south. Second, we needed to finalize arrangements for the construction of the secondary school in Aweil East County (see Activities). An assessment is currently underway and we hope to raise the $100,000 necessary to begin the building early in 2003. Finally, we accepted the invitation to visit the oilfield areas of the south, where military battles are occurring everyday and from which hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled or died. It was a difficult trip, yet we were able to understand more clearly the devastating effects of the presence of Canada’s own Talisman Oil Company. Though the oilfields are in the south, all the profits go to the northern government. This has caused huge division in the country and it’s important our own Canadian government understands the implications.
July 12, 2002 – We spent all of this week in Washington D.C., meeting with various U.S. administration officials regarding our projects in south Sudan. Our attempt to establish a joint effort between the U.S. and Canadian governments received a very strong reception. Senator Sam Brownback (R. Kansas), pictured here, has spend some time in south Sudan himself and grew very interested in our daughter Abuk’s story. He promised his support for CASS’s attempts to partner with the American administration and vowed he would assist us in acquiring more U.S. funds for the building of schools. Our meeting with Congressman Donald Payne (D. New Jersey) was also significant in recruiting support for CASS’s efforts. The highlight of the week took place on Thursday when we were asked to be special guests at the Senate meetings on Sudan. Senator Brownback told those gathered of Abuk’s story and CASS’s work and encouraged everyone to assist with our efforts. The week was highly effective at making U.S. officials aware of our projects and opens the door for the acquiring of U.S. funds to supplement our efforts.
January 28, 2002 – Plans are now being established for us to act as guides for the Foreign Affairs Committee trip into southern Sudan. This trip has been in the works for almost three years now but each time we tried to move the trip ahead it was eventually cancelled. This time it’s different. Following his trip to southern Sudan with us last April (2001), Member of Parliament Joe Fontana came back energized, determined to assist other members of the government to understand that the situation in Sudan was serious enough to warrant closer inspection. Mr. Fontana’s influence now seems to have been rewarded. While the Foreign Affairs Committee will also be visiting Khartoum, in northern Sudan, its journey into the south will be much more revealing. It is in the south where the vast majority of human rights injustices take place and where slaves are taken by northern militia forces into north Sudan for sale. The new component of education will also be on the Committee’s agenda. Aware that we are in the process of building primary schools in southern Sudan, the Committee will get the opportunity first-hand to hear of how important education is to the southern Sudanese. Groups have been reticent to build schools in southern areas because of the bombing runs flown by northern government airplanes. Yet it is precisely in these areas where schools are needed the most. In our attempts to get the Government of Canada to consider funding education in the south we have continually emphasized that if interested countries pull out of any projects because of the danger of bombing, then nothing will get done. We at CASS are determined to build and conduct schools in such an atmosphere because it will represent not only hope for returned slaves desiring education but will signal to the Sudanese government that Canada is steady in its resolve.
November 27, 2001 – It was a very special time today. MP Joe Fontana, Jane Roy and Glen Pearson met with Prime Minister Jean Chretien in order to better acquaint him with the Sudanese problem but also to introduce him to our newly adopted southern Sudanese daughter … Abuk. Only 19 months old, Abuk and her mother were held in slavery until finally released. Pursued by a helicopter gunship, Abuk’s mother stepped on a landmine and was killed instantly. Abuk somehow survived but spent the next year badly malnourished and plagued by serious pneumonia. Now that she’s in Canada she has improved dramatically. Prime Minister Chretien held her in his arms and said he would do what he could to help others like her. It was a profound moment for us and will hopefully prove the same for the southern Sudanese as well.