Ethiopia #2: "Orphan Sunday"

by Frank Dimmock

Greetings in Christ from Gambella. Yesterday was a busy day of meetings with partners from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan who are living and working in the refugee camps here. There are over 400,000 South Sudanese refugees here in six camps. More than 80% are women and children and the vast majority come from a Presbyterian background.

Mr. John Jock is the education coordinator and also assists with the trauma healing program. He is helped in that effort by Mr. Matthew Muoch Mark and Mr. Khor Majiok Tongyik, both teachers in their respective camps. They provided an update on the trauma healing work in each camp and presented priority needs for the trainees under their supervision. The exciting progress in education and trauma healing will be forthcoming in another blog.

Of the 142 refugees trained in trauma healing, 106 are still actively involved in leading healing and listening groups in their camps. Others have moved or are inactive. On this visit, I was only able to bring 50 copies of the Nuer translation of the “Healing the Wounds of Trauma” books. They will be strategically presented to 39 adult trainees and 8 children trainee leaders. Unfortunately, I am not able to enter the camps to help present the books, though all are excited to receive and use them. We also designed and ordered tee shirts for many of the trainees as an incentive to identify them in their work.

I have been invited to bring a message this Sunday to a local congregation. It is the Sunday that is recognized globally as “Orphan Sunday.” The situation here with thousands of separated and unaccompanied refugee children will make it especially relevant.

Here in East Africa, The Outreach Foundation has been engaged with partners to address the situation of orphans and vulnerable children through programs in family preservation, reunification, foster care, and transitions to independent living. Family preservation is a priority in preventing the separation of children from their biologic relatives. The strategy involves the strengthening of households through economic capacity development and counseling. Where this is not possible, efforts are made to identify any family or community links and reunify children who have been institutionalized or separated for a variety of reasons. Another alternative for appropriate childcare and development is through foster care. I have previously reported on a refugee widows foster care program in Kenya. This is an exciting way to involve community and congregations in support of new foster families. We are joining other partners here in Ethiopia to share that alternative to support orphaned and separated children.

The challenges for refugees are many, but their faithfulness through trust in God is strong and consistent. It is truly an inspiration to experience. Thank you for your interest and support of this ministry to – “Rebuild Hope in South Sudan.”