The next morning we met with Caesar from SSRRC (Southern Sudan Relief and Repatriation Commission). He knew we were coming back with several schools we had selected for drilling. We scheduled him for two days to travel with us in the field and translate during the signing of the MOUs. People do speak English, but it’s best to have someone speaking the local language too. The Kuku tribe lives in this area and neither George nor Wilson speak Kuku. The first day we just delivered the MOUs to the schools and arranged for the official signing meeting the next day with the village chief, the head teacher and the chairman of the PTA.
It took most of the day traveling to the schools. They all seemed so thrilled and extremely eager. After that we had to drive back to the border to pick up the road user permit. It was about a 20 km ride to the border and since we were finished with our work for the day, we decided to stop along the way and give some of the ladies who were walking a ride. When we stopped the truck these ladies came running. As they got closer to the vehicle I could see that they were grandmothers. They climbed into the truck and we drove on. Then when got a little further and another few ladies saw those riding and motioned for us to pick them up too, so we did. Soon we had a truck full of older ladies, and the variety of heavy items they had been walking with. I see the ladies walking on the roads all the time. People around here don’t have vehicles. They are lucky if they have bicycles. What I guess I didn’t realize is how far these ladies are often walking. We drove the women between 10 and 15 km before dropping them off!! This is just part of their daily lives. When I see their struggle, it’s hard for me to complain about much of anything in my life.
We had dinner at the only place we know in Kajo Keji, a small bush restaurant run by a lovely lady named Rose. The only thing I ever eat in Sudan is beans and rice or posho (sometimes chapatti or greens, if I’m lucky). There are just very few selections.
The next morning we got an early start. The signing of the MOUs can take some time. We have to go through the documents very carefully and the villagers often have questions. At two of the schools, the village chiefs came with younger village leaders, who are their secretaries. Often in this region the village leaders cannot read or write, so it is the secretaries’ job to actually sign official things for them.
The first school we reached was Kinyiba Primary School. They served sodas and cookies as we went through the contract. The administration at this school is fantastic and the head teacher really appealed to us for this well. Their current source of water is an unprotected well that is 2KM away. When we came for the MOU signing he had already created the chart that school will be using to track the monthly water user collections. They also had a pump mechanic at the meeting and had already formed the water committee. The water committee chairman was there to sign the MOU too. We did not even have a spot for him to sign but we improvised and found a place. I only want to encourage this kind of initiative from the school and community. The chairman of the water committee was very interested in the hygiene training classes. We gave him the contact info for the person who would be handling that part of things. They were all very excited.
We also had a wonderful experience with the communities at the signing of the MOUs at Wurta Primary School and Jalimo Orphanage Primary School. It was a very successful day.
When we stopped by the Education Office to inform them of the selections, they appealed to us to consider some other very needs schools for the next round. One main school is Adire Primary School. We actually have known about this school but the road to the village is not accessible. The kids are getting their water from a stream. The Education Office told us that the villagers are now working to clear the road so we can come visit the school. We told them we would go there during drilling, if the road was accessible.
The plan is to drill three wells now and hopefully drill three more after Christmas when more donations come in. The way we work is we identify needy schools in the various regions where we have drilling teams and then schedule the projects based on community need and driller availability. Since our drilling team in Kajo Keji has been on hiatus because of the rains, they have a pretty full schedule for the next two months. So we are starting with three schools in Kajo Keji now and hopefully three or four more in January, depending on donations and security issues around the referendum.
After the signing we went to the local market in town to but some food. I wanted to try my hand at cooking in the kitchen at the compound. I got veggies and pasta. It was fun taking turns with the guys from UNMIS in the small kitchen. My pasta was okay, nothing too exciting.
In the morning we stopped by to see the drillers one more time before leaving for Juba (the capital of southern Sudan). We gave them their copies of the MOUs and they gave us some mail to deliver to someone in Juba for them. There is no mail service from Kajo Keji to Juba and I guess this is how it is done.