Building The Future For A Village 2009: Walkers Laps

Building the future for a village

Walkers made laps around the high school track in support of Hope for Humanity’s 6th annual charity walk.
photo by Elizabeth Farina One could clearly hear the joyous call of song and the beating of drums from area Sudanese as the large group of walkers circled the track at the high school in spite of the threatening afternoon rain on Sunday, May 3. For Jody Wilcox of Chesterfield, the local Hope for Humanity event at Deep Run High School was a tangible way to continue contributing to Atiaba village’s secondary school where he helped build teacher housing last spring and learned how to make bricks. Jody’s wife Angie unfortunately would miss out on the sixth annual event because she was thousands of miles away at the same African school. She is currently a volunteer teacher at the Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in the village. The Wilcox couple had heard Darryl and Jennifer Ernst, founders of the Richmond-based charity organization, at St. James Episcopal Church speak about the many needs the African country is facing after a 20-year civil war. Both decided Southern Sudan was a place they could help make a difference in the future of the tentatively peaceful nation, which the U.S. helped establish. “When you go there, you are amazed at the resilience of the people there – because they need so much,” Jody Wilcox said. “The villages are welcoming.” Wilcox explained that one of the top issues the country is facing today is in education. The highest level of education for most who have survived the civil war is at the eighth-grade level. There are only 22 secondary schools in Southern Sudan, which is geographically the size of the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. “That’s the first thing,” he said. Medical issues were also an emergency need because clinics have been developed at the pace of schools in the country. “It needs a stable government, to be honest. And food, as well,” Wilcox said. Darryl Ernst, who was also at the event, said that building and operating a secondary school in the Southern Sudan began with a little idea. The Ernst couple became involved through their former church in 1999, he explained. They became good friends with one of the “lost” boys of Sudan, Maker Marial, who arrived in Richmond in 2000. “He became like our adopted son,” Ernst said.
In 2005, the Ernst family took Marial back to his native country to be reunited with his family in Atiaba. They saw the need for education to extend beyond the elementary level and started fundraising the same year. Last May, the school opened for 64 of the estimated 1.5 million school-aged children in Southern Sudan, according to Hope for Humanity. “We have 100 this year in the ninth and tenth grade level,” Ernst said.

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