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We are rejoicing that the peace agreement has finally been signed by both the rebel leader and the President. Also both have declared cease fires. It remains to be seen if the defectors from both sides and the militia groups will also obey the cease fire. There is much to be accomplished on the way to a true and lasting peace but it is a beginning.
These are pictures of the Level 1 students. They are just starting to learn to do lesson plans. I was doing a sample teaching for a beginning math lesson—pre-number work with sorting and grouping. On Monday we will put it into a lesson plan format. They are good about practicing how to do things.
I brought back corn and bean seeds from the states. The beans didn’t germinate well but the corn did and its about eight inches high. I hope we continue to get rain it will get tall and grow cobs. The maize gets really tall here but it’s more like field corn. The students prefer maize—they like it chewy. I think most of the community will like the corn better though.
The construction of the new dormitory is going ahead. With the signing of the peace agreement maybe some of our Ugandan workers will come back. Some did stay plus there are some local people working. The plan is still that it will be finished by November.
We had a busy week which ended by taking Sr. Ailish out to dinner to welcome her. She has started a music club. She is teaching the students to play a simple instrument which is called a tin whistle in Ireland. They are similar to a flute.
Sr. Julia is using the book of forgiving in her CRE class. They have a project in which they set a theme and do a scripture reading relate to the book. The first theme is in the pictures. I’m working with the Level 2 students using the Book of Forgiving but it’s not connected to a class. They read during their free period while the staff has their staff meeting. Then after school they share with me what touched them. We also do some prayer and meditation. I gave them journals to write in—they may or may not share those reflections. For both classes the response to the book has been very positive.
I’ve included some pictures of the work on the new dormitory. They are making good progress despite the struggles to get materials and keep the crew. We have a good contractor. Some new beds were made and the donor wanted pictures so I am sending them. Some of them men have to use a classroom until the dorm is finished. We have 106 students!
We are waiting and hoping that the peace agreement will be signed tomorrow. There are many reservations about it. There is concern about what will happen if it isn’t signed. President Obama has issued strong language about international reactions. There is also concern about how much will be tolerated within the country. There are many prayers being offered.
Our students are continuing on with their hard work. I’ve sent a few pictures of seed sorting. Also playing cards and dominos is keeping them occupied. There are a couple of pictures from our opening Mass which was on Thursday. Sister Ailish plays the violin and played with the choir. It was lovely. She is also teaching music. She’s the newest community member—from Ireland.
I forgot to say last week that the water filters have arrived In Yambio! This is the hard work and perseverance of Sr. Joan Mumaw, Len Bronec, Br Denis and many people from CMMB—especially Marko Ngwenya who was my initial contact. They will be distributed to two classes by the end of November. I just want to say it is not easy to get things to South Sudan!
The past week was a week of special classes to start the term. We had first aid presented by the Red Cross. Trauma healing, called Capacitar. It was presented by Sr. Cathy, Brother Christian, Sr. Mary who is a Franciscan working here in Yambio. They are a small community of three. The last presenter was Fr. Abraham who is a local priest and has been appointed by the Bishop to be trauma healing facilitator of the diocese. The capacitor program makes use of may modalities for self-healing. Our students really liked it and want more assistance with this.
The third special class was a program regarding the learning of language. The basic premise is that children should know their first language well—both listening, speaking, then reading, writing. They should be taught the school subjects in that language. They should only be taught English as a subject. Once they have learned the subjects and are fluent in their own language they can start transitioning to learning subjects in English. The idea is that they can’t learn English and content of all the subjects at the same time.
The pictures I’m sending are of the opening assembly. The lines of people are the school leader and all his helpers that are called “ministers”! We have a minister of health and sanitation. We also have someone responsible for reporting the news. This is good for practicing English. Sr. Margaret types it up and it goes on a bulletin board. Many of them go and read it after they’ve heard it.
Please continue to pray for peace and resolution to this conflict.
I arrived in Juba on Thursday the 30th and traveled to Yambio on the 31st. We currently have 104 students from throughout the country.
I know this news will reach the USA in some shape or form so I will give to you what I experienced. For about a week there was tension between a faction of the SPLA soldiers and local militia over a killing that had taken place in a village close to Yambio. It escalated to some shooting within the town of Yambio on Friday night. People became frightened and angry especially the youth armed themselves. This seems to be a tribal issue related to ongoing hurts and unresolved issues. As a consequence many people moved to the bush or other towns. We locked our gate and asked the students to stay in the compound on Saturday. They stayed very calm and were most cooperative. Bishop Edward talked to the UN and others to have plans in place for leaving if necessary. He and the parish priest along with the Bishop’s secretary came to meet with us. Father Benjamin also spoke with the students. The governor and deputy governor were also in contact with Juba. They sent a delegation of authorities from Juba as well as from the military. They spoke to the people and asked for people to stay in at night and to put down their guns. They have apparently listened. It has been calm and peaceful the last two nights. They are investigating the killings and have promised to take action. Father John also spoke to some of the youth in our neighborhood. It seems the youth are the first to escalate. He also came down to speak with our students and reassure them on Saturday night. We have students from all over the country and from different tribes and ethnic groups but they are staying calm and united as Solidarity members.
So at this time everyone here is safe and doing all right. Classes are continuing. Please continue to pray for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.