South Sudan Leadership and Community Development (SSLCD) began in 1994 in Grand Rapids Michigan as an effort of some of the Lost Boys of Sudan who had resettled in the area to assist the people still living in the Kiir Village where they had been forced to flee as young children. From the beginning, the effort was primarily to empower the people of this village by helping them prioritize their needs and work together as a community to achieve them, with assistance from SSLCD to meet needs that could not be met with their own resources.
A pivotal moment in SSLCD’s development came in a meeting with some of the women leaders of the village when we asked how they gave birth to their children. Their answer has always stuck with us: They said simply, “With God.” They explained that they had no assistance of any kind; they went into their tukuls alone with whatever supplies they had on hand. We realized why South Sudan had the highest maternal/child mortality rate in the world, and that empowerment of these women had to start by empowering them to improve the birth process. This led to subsequent efforts to assist these women to improve many aspects of their community.
Our work in the Kiir Village came to an abrupt end when the latest civil war broke out in December 2013, forcing the entire village to flee to Uganda where they settled in a refugee camp set up by the UN. Since the spring of that year our work has been focused on two nearby refugee settlements where most of them are now living.
1. Teams of 25 women leaders have been established and trained in the Olua 1 and Mungula 1 Settlements. They meet on a regular basis for mutual support and to develop communal solutions to problems they face.
2. Thirty people in each settlement have learned beginning conversational English, a priority set by the leaders as the first step toward participating in the broader community.
3. Community gardens have been established in each settlement where the entire community works together to plant crops that provide much needed food in the face of severe cutbacks in the allotments received from the World Food Program.
4. Over one hundred women have been trained in problem identification and prevention during child birth.
5. Two hundred people have received training to help them begin healing from their emotional trauma and also to assist others in the same process.
6. Nearly a thousand birth kits, containing basic supplies for giving birth have been assembled and delivered to the women. We continue to partner with the Sudanese people as they struggle to regain their footing.
1. Enable the Sudanese refugee community to work together to meet needs as they arise in their current living situations.
2. Provide additional resources to the community where their own efforts are insufficient.
3. Give women who have been totally marginalized in the Dinka culture the opportunity to learn basic skills for leadership and achieving conflict resolution and reconciliation both in their current situation and potentially back in South Sudan.