From Sherborne to South Sudan

by Gerry Lynch last modified 21 Jun, 2018 04:58 PM

Abbey parishioner to give talk after returning from crisis-hit country earlier this month

From Sherborne to South Sudan

Robert after wading along a river to reach a remote village

A Sherborne churchgoer who has just returned from a humanitarian trip to crisis-hit South Sudan with Christian Aid will provide a first-hand account of how ongoing conflict is leaving families battling severe hunger, when he speaks in the town next month.

Robert Hayward OBE, the charity’s former country manager for Sudan and South Sudan, spent 24 days in the country providing support to the Christian Aid team and one of its local partner organisations, the relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church.

He returned earlier this month, just as the international aid and development charity launched its 2017 Christmas Appeal highlighting the problem of acute malnutrition in South Sudan.

Donations will go further this year, as for every pound given by supporters between now and February 5 2018, the UK Government will also give a pound (up to a total of £2.7 million). The Government’s contribution will be spent exclusively on Christian Aid projects tackling malnutrition in South Sudan, where some six million people – half the population – urgently need food.

Robert, who was Christian Aid’s Country Manager from 2008-11 and is a long-standing member of Sherborne Abbey Choir, will share his experiences and insights into delivering both emergency aid and long-term development projects, in a special fundraising evening on Monday 4 December. His talk Trails and Tribulations – Christian Aid in the Sudans and Beyond, will start at 7pm in the Digby Memorial Church Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 3NL.

[uploaded 16 Nov 2017]During his trip Robert visited villages in northern South Sudan to monitor a Christian Aid project supported by the Diocese of Salisbury distributing basic fishing gear and training. Hooks and twine provide an opportunity for displaced and host families to create fishing lines and nets to secure vital food quickly.

Two days after Robert had interviewed a group of fishermen in Niamne, the village came under surprise attack and huts were burned to the ground: eight people lost their lives and 12 people were injured.

Robert said: “This is an example of the way in which conflict in South Sudan results in uncertainty and insecurity for families trying to eat and make a livelihood.

“Christian Aid’s partners are on the ground helping the vulnerable hard-to-reach displaced people and supporting the host communities they have had to move to.  

The situation can seem hopeless but the truth is, this kind of humanitarian aid and the long-term development work going on alongside it, are helping to forge a path towards stability.”

Churches and supporters across Dorset and Wiltshire raised a phenomenal £110,584 for the Diocese of Salisbury’s 2017 Lent Appeal in support of Christian Aid’s famine-response work in South Sudan’s southern Unity State. Robert visited the project this summer and interviewed displaced people and host families who had been given cash and cash vouchers to help provide for their families.

Robert continued: “There are huge needs with 1.88 million people displaced within the country out of a total population of 12 million. Christian Aid is providing help for families to achieve food security and a livelihood, through providing training and tools as well as cash and vouchers for food, which also encourages re-growth of the local markets. 

“Just as churches across the diocese have done so magnificently this year, we can all reach out to these vulnerable families through our donations this Christmas. The people I met are encouraged by the knowledge that people in places like Sherborne are thinking of them, praying for them and are providing this help.

“In the Bible it says: ‘Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.’ Christmas is a time when we, regardless of faith, have a great opportunity to make a difference.”

Fiona Daborn, Christian Aid Regional Coordinator for Dorset said: “To have a former Christian Aid Country Manager living in Dorset, but still regularly visiting the Sudans and bringing back fresh up-to-date stories is a huge privilege. 

“Christian Aid isn’t just in London or overseas, but has its lifeblood in communities such as Sherborne where people connect with their global brothers and sisters and make a decision to work against the injustice of poverty. 

“We want to welcome a wide range of people of all ages to hear Robert’s talk and see his photographs. I know we will be inspired by the resilience of the people and communities that he has met. 

“As the countdown to Christmas begins, I think it will be an amazing opportunity to take time to reflect on the needs of others. Just by supporting this event we all have the chance to make sure there is ‘Enough for Everyone’ this Christmas.

Tickets for the evening, which will include mulled wine and mince pies, cost £7 and are available from Sherborne Parish Office on 01935 812452. 

Lower photo: Tap Nen with his fishing net in the swamp near his village of Niamne in northern Unity State. The Diocese and Christian Aid are supporting fishermen in the area with simple but effective equipment.

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