The Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron
Norwegian volunteers to Kuron
Kristen Fløgstad (67) and Kornelius Gustad (66) have several years of experience from working in Africa. Now they are sharing their knowledge with Peace Village.
Text and photo by: Miriam Hagen
The two Norwegians will stay in Kuron from 13 September to mid-November. Fløgstad is temporarily filling the position as the Director of Peace Village, while Gustad is helping out with maintenance of the vehicles, machines, water pumps and bridges.
Fløgstad lives in Søgne and is a teacher by profession. He has lived and worked in South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania for eight years altogether. During this time he was employed by Norwegian Configuration of Sports, the Norwegian Peace Corps, Norwegian Church Aid and Norwegian Refugee Council. When he was asked to volunteer as the Program Manager of Peace Village last year, he immediately quit his job in Norway.
“I was asked on a Thursday. Friday I told my boss that I might resign, and I sent the formal resignment letter the following Monday. Two months later I left. I have not regretted that choice,” Fløgstad smiled.
He had heard about the Toposa tribe when he worked in other parts of South Sudan, but had only seen a few of them. He was intrigued by getting to know these people.
“They live like they used to in the old Africa. There has been some development, but very little. The analphabetism is scarily high, I have not seen anything like it in the neighboring countries, but I know they had tribes like the Toposas some decades ago,” Fløgstad said.
This year he is back to fill the position as the Director for Ezra Remo Welya, who is currently in Norway finishing his PhD in Education related to HIV/Aids.
“Why did you choose to come back to Kuron?”
“It is very exciting to be here and I think it is important to work on development in remote areas. I believe very much in improving the roads and giving education to the Toposas,” he said.
Kornelius Gustad (left) and Kristen Fløgstad are volunteering for Peace Village for two months this autumn.
Fløgstad says that the work is very demanding, and he believes that the Peace village needs improvements both in administration, maintenance of the vehicles and in the logistics.
“I am glad to have people like Moses, Prisca and the other Norwegians here, because their way of thinking is more similar to mine. I also get along very well with Kornelius.”
“Which challenges do you see in Kuron area?”
“People have been pacified by the war and too much relief. We have to be critical before we give aid because it can create dependency. Long term work in development is better as it helps people to be responsible. Then you can continue building on the people that proves themselves to be capable,” said Fløgstad.
The other volunteer, Mr. Gustad, has a License of heavy machinery Mechanics and he has been working for Statens Vegvesen in Road construction and also maintenance of the vehicles most of his career. The last few years before he was retired, he was a Quality Leader of tarmac in Mesta A/S in the western part of Norway.
Gustad also worked as a Road Superviser for Norwegian Church Aid in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, from 1981 to 1983. He was based in Torit, and he was responsible of maintaining vehicles and road construction. Next week he is going to Opari for Bishop Taban Parides celebration of 50 years as a priest and Bishop, and on that journey he will see the road he constructed over 30 years ago.
“I look forward to see it. When the road was opened, they called it ‘Kornelius road’,” he laughed and added that according to what he has been told, the road is still in good shape.
“How is it to be back in South Sudan?”
“It feels good. I like the people very much, and I find it easy to get new friends. I have always loved South Sudan very much, and I have used to tell people that it is my second homeland,” Kornelius said.
“Has the country changed a lot since the last time you were here?”
“It is hard to tell, because I did not reach Kuron last time I was here and this time I have not been to Torit … But Juba is different. It was a place we hardly ever went to because it was really dirty and undeveloped. Now there are some nice buildings and even tarmac on some of the roads.”
Helped in emergencies
Kornelius has a lot of international experience through Norwegian Church Aids WASH-project, which works on water and sanitation. He took part of the process of forming the Emergency Response team, and it has taken him to many corners of the world. In 2000 he was in Kosovo for 6 weeks after the war, then Eritrea in 2002, Sierra Leone in 2002, Indonesia in 2005 after the tsunami and then lastly Pakistan twice in 2005 and 2006 after the earth quake.
“How was it to travel to these places?”
“I have had some really though experiences that it is difficult to forget, therefore I am no longer a part of the group,” Kornelius said. He had to be asked several times before he accepted to go to Kuron.
“I did not want to leave my wife alone for so long, but now she has been to London with my daughters, and I know they had a great time.” Kornelius tells that he loves being back in South Sudan, but this time he struggles more with the heat than he used to.
“It is really warm at night, so I struggle to sleep.”
So far Kornelius has been repairing some machines for carpentry at the Vocational training school, worked on maintenance of the vehicles and also teaching the drivers to do this work. The main purpose of his visit was to repair the Kuron Moto Bridge close to the Peace village, but unfortunately the materials were not bought before he arrived.
“We have now made an order of materials in hardwood, which will be prepared in Opari and then sent by a lorry. While I am here, we will use local materials to do some spot improvements,” Kornelius said. He has also been working on a water pump that has not been functioning for months, and he explains that there is plenty of work to keep him busy for the two months he is staying in the Peace village.