24 August 2012
Life for villagers in a rural South Sudan community has undergone a remarkable turnaround following the transforming work of a Tearfund partner.
Residents of Goja, near Yei, used to struggle to feed themselves due to poor farming techniques, cared little about educating their children and were often beset by illness due to inadequate hygiene.
There was little community spirit until Tearfund partner Across began a project which awakened locals to their own potential.
Across started by working with the local church and using Bible studies to inspire its congregation to build better relationships within Goja.
This led to the church and community uniting to gather information about the needs of the area, which in turn led to an unprecedented 20-year action plan. Across, through the church, is helping villagers realise their dreams, providing expert advice and training where needed.
The number one priority was to build a school and together Goja’s residents made the 64,000 bricks necessary to construct three classrooms which cater for 249 students.
Lack of food has also been tackled by farmers working together. Several farming associations, made up equally of men and women, are now cultivating large amounts of land in order to sell the surplus produce and improve the status of the community.
They plant maize and groundnuts and have plans to buy a grinding mill, hire a tractor and extend the amount of land currently being farmed. The community also runs a microfinance savings scheme where people can access loans to start up small businesses.
Ezra Kenyi, vice-chairman of one farming association, said, ‘We struggled as individuals but now we work better together as a group.
‘The Bible studies have made us want to do this. The training (by Across agricultural experts) helped very much.’
Transformation is evident at all levels of Goja. Most homes now have toilets and the community wash their hands, boil water and have rubbish pits.
Individually people are undertaking various projects, such as raising poultry and planting fruit and vegetables.
The community is also running various awareness initiatives on topics such as child protection, parental care, HIV/AIDS and early marriage.
Sarah Pickwick, Tearfund’s South Sudan Policy Officer who has visited Goja, said, ‘Villagers told me how before Across started working with them they didn’t see the resources around that God had blessed them with.
‘Now they say they see the value of the trees, grass, soil etc and are using them to support themselves. Neighbouring communities have apparently seen the changes in Goja and have asked how they too can learn.’