South Sudan: JRS extends to Western Equatoria
11 February 2013

Members of the congregation raise their hands in prayer during mass in Yei, South Sudan where JRS had a project that included support to education, pastoral activities, peace and reconciliation. (Kevin White/JRS)
The holistic approach of JRS to the people of Western Equatoria will enable them change their lives.
Yambio, 4 February 2013 - Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has extended its services to Western Equatoria in South Sudan. The hospitality and the needs of the people of Western Equatorial moved JRS in joining them and assist find solutions to their pressing needs. The people of Western Equatoria were displaced due to a long civil war in the Sudan as well an invasion by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). His Lordship Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Catholic Diocese of Tambura-Yambio was excited at the arrival of JRS. He noted that he has had a good encounter with the Jesuits and the presence of JRS in Yambio is one of his greatest moments.

JRS has had a presence in South Sudan for over 15 years, involved in assisting South Sudanese people displaced during the 1983 - 2005 civil war, to re-build educational infrastructure and set up an educational system for returnees. JRS also was involved in the promotion of peace building initiatives and pastoral care with the people of South Sudan to enable them to coexist. Initially, JRS presence was largely concentrated in the Eastern and Central Equatoria states. It's a great honour for JRS to be part of the people of Yambio in reconstruction of their educational system and offer pastoral care. The holistic approach of JRS to the people of Western Equatoria will enable them change their lives.

Situation of education. The educational situation of the people of Western Equatoria is below the minimum required standards as was described by the Tambura-Yambio Catholic Diocese Bishop. The Bishop narrated his relentless appeals in search of a partner to support the initiative which has eventually yielded fruit from the management of JRS. The Bishop was so overwhelmed with joy and stated that it was his first time that they have an organisation that stays with them in the same compound. He also noted that, the pastoral wing of the Diocese is in a bad shape, due to lack of financial support. He appreciated that JRS has a pastoral component that could give some support to the pastoral team.

JRS team visited some few schools and noted with compassion the relentless efforts by the children to learn under very difficult circumstances. The schools are dilapidated, and some are temporary classrooms built with tents while other lessons conducted in private homesteads in small rooms. The presence of JRS will try and look at the most pressing needs and support the children to have access to education in an enabling environment.'While on rounds to visit schools, we noted several schools conducting registration of new students. However on enquiring, we were informed that each student must pay registration, enrolment, development fees, and thereafter buy all the basic scholastic materials. Many people of Western Equatoria have been impoverished by protracted conflicts and the effect of LRA's insurgency. Consequently, they cannot meet all the school enrolment requirements for their children. It's our hope that JRS intervention will bring long term assistance to the children of Yambio in Western Equatoria.

Support from the Catholic Bishop. The Bishop committed himself to support JRS to carry out its operations in the region. He requested JRS to immediately start their work. He noted that he is interested in the changes on the lives of the people. He committed his teams to ensure that JRS is given the support they need for the success of the project. He noted that two years are long but at the same time very short based on the rate of implementation.

JRS is excited for the warm welcome and is committed to offer service guided by its mission; to accompany, serve, and advocate. JRS is to use the two years of the Yambio project to make a contribution in changing the lives of people in education. The extension of the services to Western Equatoria is as a result of the needs that are pressing in the region.

By Hezekiah Ronald Ombiro and Aidan Azairwe, JRS Yambio Project.

JRS has been present in southern Sudan since 1997, working with people internally displaced by civil war. As peace dawned in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, JRS expanded its work and adapted its projects to respond to the needs of the refugees as they returned home, accompanying and serving them as they started to rebuild their lives. In 2012, JRS closed down its projects in Kajo Keji, Lobone, Nimule and Yei, handing them over to the local church and county authorities. Since January 2013, JRS has been setting up a project in Yambio.