ER residents help out in rural Africa
A group of three Alaskans and six Iowans have been working since Feb. 8 to bring more clean water to the remote village of Old Fangak, S. Sudan. The Alaskan Sudan Medical Project, a not-for profit organization based in Anchorage is coordinating the 10-day effort.
Team leader is Brett Burroughs of Anchorage, joined by Dr. Mike Remillard and son Daniel, of Eagle River.
Iowans are Greg Brown, Andrew Chuol, and Rev. Gregg Davison, daughter Minda Davison, Mike Donahey, Majok Gatwech and Matt Streeter. Brown, the Davisons, Donahey are from Marshalltown. Chuol resides in Ames, Gatwech in Denison and Streeter in State Center.
Chuol and Gatwech are from Old Fangak and immigrated to the U.S. approximately 10 years ago. Chuol is an American citizen while Gatwech is a legal resident alien who is working to gain citizenship.
Both are combat veterans of numerous civil wars between north and south Sudan and both represented the Christian-dominated southern faction against the Arab and Islamic influenced north.
The village of approximately 5,000 is located in northeast S. Sudan has two working wells, installed by ASMP and villagers.
The group has been working to fix a disabled well and install a new one.
“Well No. 3 (the disabled well) is extremely close to the medical clinic,“ said Burroughs. “If we can fix it and provide adequate flow it would help the clinic workers and visitors. We are making progress on the new well with pits dug and drilling to begin soon.”
The new well, if successful, is within 100 feet of a Tuberculosis Clinic currently under construction.
It’s the ninth visit to the village for Burroughs, a professional well driller, while Dr. Remillard is making his fourth. Others are making their first.
The area’s hard soil and temperatures over 100 degrees during portions of the day have made work a challenge. Before drilling could start at the new site, deep pits had to be dug out with pick axes and shovels, since there is no heavy equipment. Work at the disabled well requires a pump to pulled and inserted in the well pipe frequently to measure flow.
“Everybody was pushing themselves the first couple of days and getting worn out,” Dr. Remillard said. “We learned and decided everyone should take a lunch break at 12:30 and get in the shade to rest.”
Work has been resuming at 2:30 p.m. and continuing until early evening. Temperatures begin to drop after 4 p.m.
Team member Brown said he joined the Iowa group, sponsored by Marshalltown’s Trinity Lutheran Church, because of a 15-year friendship with Old Fangak area native Dual Gony.
Gony had immigrated to America after years of civil war motivated him to find a better life for his family.
“It seemed like a natural progression,” Brown said. “My wife Suzanne and I became acquainted with Gony and became close friends. And now I can directly help the Sudanese people.”
The Browns are godparents to several of Gony’s children.
Gony returned to S. Sudan, which gained independence from North Sudan last July. He is director of information for Jonglei state, where Old Fangak is located.
Dr. Jill Seaman of Bethel initiated the connection with Old Fangak approximately 20 years ago. Seaman was originally part of Doctors Without Borders group, made up of health care professionals who serve in third-world countries. When civil war fighting drew near to the village, DWB withdrew, except Seaman, who remained to care for villagers. ASMP also operates the free-of-charge medical clinic cited by Burroughs.
Devotions are held each morning before work and in the evening, as suggested by Rev. Davison, Trinity’s pastor of 25 years. Davison hosted the first and team members take turns daily.
“The purpose of the devotions is to keep in focus our spiritual mission as well as the physical one,” Davison said. “We pray for each other and for the Sudanese people, so that we all may grow together.”
Reprinted courtesy of the Times Republican newspaper, Marshalltown, Iowa. Contact staff reporter Mike Donahey at (641) 753-6611 or [email protected]