The Holy Trinity Peace Village
Final report from Kuron 4th April 2013
By Guro Huby
My last report was from 25th February, when we were 5 weeks into our stay at Kuron. We were then preparing for a visit by a UNICEF, GoSS and Eastern Equatoria State government representatives. My final report covers the last 3 ½ weeks, and concentrates on this visit and its aftermath. The visit was part of a “fact finding mission” to review projects that UNICEF and national and state governments were funding or sponsoring in Eastern Equatoria. Kuron was not among these projects, but Bishop Paride had met with the head of UNICEF Southern Sudan and they wanted to come and see for themselves what Kuron was doing.
That visit was an important one for Kuron, in that it opened up several possibilities for substantial funding, which also means increased challenges in terms of managing, completing and reporting on, projects. For us it meant participating in proposal writing and visits to various organisations and government offices to promote projects, and our last 3 ½ weeks in the Sudan were very busy.
Before I outline these developments, I want to describe the UNICEF visit in some detail, because it in many ways illustrates how, why and the conditions under which, the HTPV Kuron works.
There was some discussion about what this UNICEF visit was for. The more optimistic said that it was because UNICEF wanted to see the work Kuron is doing in order to fund at least some of it. And we know that Kuron needs funding! Having seen their itinerary the more pessimistic pointed out that the delegation was on a trip to monitor projects funded by UNICEF and the Southern Sudanese Government, that this did not include Kuron, and that a full schedule would prevent any meaningful time to talk to us. The downright cynical said they were just using Kuron for accommodation, which meant that a lot of people had to move out of their rooms and find other places to sleep, some in tents. The kitchen staff had to cater for 30 people rather than 10. Lots of important construction work racing against the approaching rainy season, when all work stops as the place becomes mud and roads impassable, had to be put on hold.
The reality turned out to be a mixture of all of the above, plus a bit of luck and lots of back stage work by Ezra, the Deputy Sudanese Director of Kuron. We also made preparations: We bought in crates of soda (fizzy drinks) and beer, organised toilet paper and soap, cleaned the compound, dug an extra guest latrine and drew up a PR strategy that included a concept paper written by me with input from Uli Thum, the lead of the peace and Community Development Project.
The plan was for the delegation to arrive Sunday 3rd March at 3pm. Sunday morning we were told they would arrive Monday “sometime” That meant even less time for Kuron to persuade the delegation to fund Peace Village projects.
It also meant less soda for UNICEF. That Sunday lunchtime we were invaded by the Toposa from the nearest village, and they had to be plied with soda in return for a most spectacular display that UNICEF in no way managed to match. Mama Kuron’s son, with two bulls, his mother, her dance group and a big delegation carrying lots of guns and spears, was on his way to the village of an old family friend with the bulls. The family friends had given one of them to Kuron’s son when he was young and he had looked after it well and proven himself as a good Toposa herder. Now the bull was old and had to be killed and eaten, and the family friend was the one to do it. The delegation would stop by several villages on the way in order to acknowledge important relationships and receive gifts for the journey. Kuron was the first village to be visited, which is an honour and shows the relationships, which have grown between the Peace Village and the local Toposa population. We had already given them gift for the journey, and they asked for the loan of a Kuron car. They were gently refused, so the least Kuron could do was to bring out the soda.
Several crates of soda lighter, we sat down to wait for UNICEF on the Monday. We received a message in the morning that they would be here for supper, and “don’t make lunch for them”. Then at lunchtime they rolled up. Kuron responded with flair. A modest lunch for 10 was somehow transformed into a feast for 30 after which the visitors were shown around the Peace Villlage and there was a meeting with two presentations. The good news was that they had shaved off several items of their schedule and set aside the rest of the day and following morning for Kuron.
They had found that several of the health facilities ands schools in this part of Eastern Equatoria were closed down. On closer examination it appears that facilities were to be funded by resources directed through the Diocese of Torit, but these resources have not arrived at their destination. This includes Kuron. Facilities have closed down, without this being reported, but Kuron as we know, soldiers on and appeared, as it were, the main or only show in town. The delegation was therefore eager to learn about the work of the Peace Village, and they liked what they heard.
It helped that the Commissioner in Narus, himself a Toposa and long-standing friend and supporter of Kuron and Bishop Paride, was among the delegation and able to verify the work that had been done to reduce violence and open up education opportunities. Likewise, the Minister of Education for Eastern Equatoria State was there. He had participated in the early development of Kuron, and it turned out, was an old pupil of Ezra! The Minister of Health for Eastern Equatoria State wasl also a member of the party. She is Bishop Paride’s niece, and into the bargain the daughter of his mother’s brother (a very important relative). She also spoke warmly in favour of the Peace Village.
The delegation had a meeting that very evening where they identified projects UNICEF would fund. Community radio was one – a very good choice. Communication here is very time consuming and difficult because of the mobile population and lack of roads. The few roads there are turn to mud in the rainy season and so of limited use. A Community Radio, with substantial input from the local Toposa, could become THE medium of communication in the area and also reach Jie, Murle and other neighbouring tribes. It would support peace-keeping, education, outreach and community mobilisation in a number of areas.
A maternity unit at the Health Center, water and sanitation (WASH) facilities for the primary school and a large number of solar powered lamps for distribution in the villages to use for evening prayers and lessons were also included.
Another piece of good news was from the Minister of Health from Eastern Equatoria State who has decided that part of Eastern Equatoria’s share of a “Health Pool Fund” – contributed by a group of friendly nations to the penniless new nation that is South Sudan – will be earmarked for Kuron Primary Health Care Centre. She wants this funding to improve the current clinic service, and to also include a community-based health care programme to promote mother and child health, where capacity and knowledge about prevention and first treatment of disease is built in the Toposa villages. This programme will involve training local community health care workers and traditional birth attendants to manage some pregnancies and disease locally, and to refer more complex cases to the clinic.
A successful combination of the clinic and the community health programme will make health care accessible to a larger proportion of the population than the clinic can currently serve. More important, it will make the Toposa more self reliant when it comes to health because if things go well they will actively take part in disease prevention and management. This funding is also an opportunity for Kuron to become a demonstration site for up to date and evidence - based health care to hard-to-reach populations in resource poor countries. There is however a long way to go to get there.
The immediate challenge was the UNICEF proposals, which had to be submitted within a tight time frame. We needed drafts within 1 ½ weeks, to be taken for preliminary discussions with UNICEF in Juba later in March. UNICEF templates for proposals are thorough and detailed and take a long time to complete, but they force you to think about and plan projects carefully, so saves work and effort later on. However, that is small consolation when you are working under time pressure and in addition have a lot of other tasks to attend to!
Chris dropped the clinic work and wrote a proposal for a Maternity Unit, Uli took on the proposal for community radio, with some input from me on the “community involvement and sustainability” component, while George and Ezra wrote one for the WASH programme. I completed the final impact evaluation of the agriculture project, which was due at the end of March. This was needed for the donor to fund a scaled down continuation of the work that emphasised outreach rather than the demonstration farm.
This evaluation involved the 6 of the first Toposa St. Thomas’ Primary School leavers interviewing Toposa farmers about their experience of the project. The boys were a delight to work with. They were polite, independent, mature and reliable, and although their interview skills will need developing, their standard was impressive for people who have completed primary school. They will go on to secondary school, but will hopefully return to their Kuron home and become an important resource for similar work in the future.
Ezra, Chris and I left Kuron on the 16th March, to go to Torit for discussions with the Minister of Health for Eastern Equatoria State about the Health Pool Funding, and Juba, for meetings with UNICEF and other donors. The meetings were good and constructive, and showed that there is support and recognition for the Peace Village. The bids for the Health Pool Funding are not yet out, but Chris and I agreed to try and help with the proposals when application forms are released. This should be soon.
It seemed to us that Kuron’s game was in several respects raised. This brings opportunities, but also challenges. The UNICEF and Health Pool funding can significantly enhance the Peace Village’s work and standing. However the UNICEF funding is for 6 months’ projects and explicitly, a way of “testing” Kuron’s capacity to run, complete and report on, projects according to proposed plans. Sudden influx of large funds can damage small organisations that do not have the capacity to manage them. If Kuron demonstrates this capability more funding will be channelled this way. The successful completion of this work is therefore a crucial task for the Peace Village in the time to come and will put the fledgling NGO’s new arrangements to the test. It is an exciting time, with lots of opportunities, and Kuron needs our continued support!