Building schools and libraries in South Sudan, and digging wells for people used to drinking river water, takes more than goodwill.
It takes a lot of money – a lot of Ethiopian birr and Sudanese pounds to pay well diggers and construction workers, to buy trucks to haul building materials, and to purchase machines to create concrete bricks.
For a good school, a functional library or a new church, you can be talking upward of $250,000.
So back here in Sioux Falls, where five different groups are involved in humanitarian efforts in the East African country, fundraising continues on a lot of different fronts, at a lot of different levels.
Children from across the state have brought their dimes and nickels to school to help their African counterparts. Service organizations have held community dinners to raise money. Mary’s Project in Sioux Falls raffled off a mission trip to Africa this summer as a way to raise awareness about the needs in South Sudan, and to bring in money to help build a library in the village of Paliau.
And now members of an effort called the Khor Wakow School Project are about to unveil a book about the driving force behind their mission, Sioux Falls probation officer David Jal.
The book is called “David’s Journey” and is a story about Jal’s struggle to survive a decades-long civil war in South Sudan that ultimately turned him into one of the Lost Boys.
Jal wrote it with Laura Jacobs, a colleague of his in the probation office here in Sioux Falls. Illustrated by Tracy Bezesky, it’s 32 pages long and is being self-published, meaning 100 percent of proceeds will go toward building a school in Jal’s native village of Dunyal along the Khor Wakow River in eastern South Sudan.
“It tells the story I want it to,” Jal, 38, says. “I was impressed with the work Tracy Bezesky did. I think she’s a very gifted woman.”
The group is producing 5,000 copies with the first printing and intends to sell it for $20 apiece. Building on a marketing theme of “Buy a book, build a school,” project board members see the effort as a major fundraising piece for the school Jal wants to build for approximately 400 children in and around his home village.
There are no classrooms in the village now. Children are taught by volunteer teachers beneath the branches of what the Nuer call a thow tree. The nearest actual school is hours away, meaning many younger children go untaught.
Many of the girls go untaught as well. In the Nuer culture, the girls are expected to spend their days grinding corn and sorghum into flour, and to haul water from the Khor Wakow, and thus have no time to attend school. Jal has already taken hand grinders to his village to make that work easier, and also saw to it that a well was dug there this past February.
Now he’s intent on building the school so boys and girls alike have a place to learn safe from the whims of nature.
“David’s Journey” is expected to be available for purchase at the end of September, Khor Wakow board member Lisa Carlson said. Jal will be signing the books during the Festival of Books Sept. 28-30, and at Zandbroz on Oct. 27. The Siouxland Public Lilbraries has indicated it wants to host Jal for a book signing this fall as well.
Carlson said more information about the book and its purchase will become available soon on the project’s website at http://www.khorwakowschoolproject.org.