Portadown is the epicentre of an ambitious plan – initially costing over £200,000 - to establish a primary school and a fresh water project in South Sudan, the world’s newest country – founded in 2011.
It’s the ‘baby’ of the Carn-based ‘Fields of Life’ (FOL) organisation, with local man David Gough its newly-appointed international development manager, and local businessman Neville Woods championing the ‘Water for Life’ aspect of the life-enriching project.
David, who has been to no fewer than 38 African and Asian countries over the years in a development role with various charity organisations, led a recent fact-finding visit to South Sudan to assess the needs.
He has been to many of the world’s hotspots, including the Rwanda border after the genocide in 1994, The Democratic Republic of Congo as recently as May of this year, Pakistan border after the Afghan war and Sri Lanka post-tsunami.
He has been travelling to South Sudan since 2008 – when it was part of overall Sudan.
The country achieved independence in 2011 after 50 years of civil war. The vote in support was 98.83 per cent.
Neville – who has valuable experience in providing a water drilling rig for Uganda – is in charge of that aspect of Operation South Sudan.
Said David, “Only one percent of girls in South Sudan complete primary school, only one schoolchild in four is a girl, and female illiteracy is the highest in the world.
“Fields of Life plans to start building a Primary School in the Maridi Diocese during 2014.
“The 207 children at Onjirima Primary School – under one of only two, grass roofed, mud-walled classroom – sang to us, ‘Our visitors, if you go, remember us.’
“The other four classes are held under mango trees, with children sitting on branches, and they are often sent home during the nine-month rainy season.
“In Ibba, only 1,927 pupils have access to education in just seven primary schools, only three of which are permanent structures with the full complement of eight classrooms. The county has only one secondary school with two teachers, and just seven students enrolled at secondary level in 2010.”
Meanwhile, it is estimated that 50 children die every day in Ibba County due to water-borne diseases, usually having to draw dirty water from polluted pools and rivers.
Neville Woods takes up the story: “I visited Uganda three years ago with a group of businessmen, and we returned having seen the impact fresh water can make in a community. The Water for Life challenge team was born.”
The group, led by Angus Wilson of Wilson’s Country and including local man Niall Irwin, committed to raise £200,000 to purchase a drilling rig and to drill 25 wells at £3,600 each for Fields of Life.
They have raised in excess of £280,000 to date and the organisation has now two drilling rigs which have drilled over 300 boreholes in Uganda.
One Archdeaconry – almost the size of County Armagh – has only one borehole, and that does not work.
Neville added, “Having witnessed a young boy taking water from a dirty pool in Ibba, we now wish to purchase a new drilling rig for Fields of Life in South Sudan.
“We’ve already raised £80,000 towards our £125,000 target and Angus Wilson and I are fasting on Christmas Day to raise as much as we can.”
Donations can be made by contacting Neville on 3887 1210 or the Fields of Life office on 3839 0395.
And more information about Fields of Life can be had by visiting the website – fieldsoflife.org – or phone 3839 0395.