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Southern Sudan Healthcare OrganizationJacob Atem and Lual Deng Awan, two Sudanese refugees now living in the U.S., have established a nonprofit healthcare organization to give impoverished people in South Sudan access to proper medical treatment. The Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO) opened its first clinic in Maar, Sudan in 2008 and it now aims to build more clinics.

Maar, Sudan is an especially significant location for Atem and Awan because it is the town where they once lived before the Second Sudanese Civil War struck in 1983. During this war, 20,000 Sudanese children – including Atem and Awan – were left on their own after their family members were killed or kidnapped in the conflict. They were known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” These children attempted to make a treacherous 1,000-mile journey on foot to reach Ethiopia as refugees. Thousands of boys died on the journey, and Ethiopia did not prove to be a good choice for resettlement. In 1991, war in Ethiopia forced the boys to escape to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. At this refugee camp, the U.S. State Department selected some of the boys for resettlement in the United States. Both Atem and Awan were brought to Michigan and taken in by foster families. In the United States, they went on to attend high school and pursue higher education.

The clinic in Maar provides up-to-date basic healthcare services to patients, while the organization as a whole provides funding to South Sudanese individuals who want to pursue a career in the medical field. The clinic has proved to be invaluable for the inhabitants of Maar, since the village is in a very isolated location. Before the arrival of the SSHCO, the closest clinics to the villagers were about a three day journey away. The Maar Clinic sees up to 3,000 patients monthly. Out of the patients the clinic sees, 80 percent have malaria and 50 percent are under five years old. Around 10 women come in every month to give birth, and 60 percent of the children it sees have some kind of diarrheal disease.

Currently, the SSHCO is working with the Sudanese government to build additional clinics and improve vaccination rates in Sudan. Although Atem and Awan undoubtedly suffered a lot in their early life, they persevered, and have now made it their life purpose to bring hope and health to the people in their home country.

Anna Gargiulo

Photo: Google

MADRE: An Organization for Women Across the World
MADRE is an organization fighting for the rights and empowerment of women worldwide that has been around for more than 30 years. It began when a group of U.S. women from a variety of backgrounds returned from Nicaragua in the ’80s in the midst of the Contra War.

Upon arrival back in the U.S., their mission was to spread awareness about issues facing Nicaraguan women and to improve domestic policies regarding women’s rights.

There are two different strategies that MADRE uses: partnering with local organizations that stand for human rights and advocating for the international law to be held accountable.

The New York-based organization has projects and partners around the globe, in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Kenya, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. The work MADRE is doing in each country differs, but it all comes down to the same goals of raising women up and helping them find lasting solutions to whatever issues they may face.

MADRE was recently featured in an article on the United Nations Women website for one of its projects in Nicaragua in which women use talk radio to discuss gender violence. MADRE received a grant from the United Nations for the project. The radio station has the sole focus of women’s rights and is the first of its kind in the region.

MADRE stands strong as an organization that is advocating on the behalf of women to end violence and rape, maintain gender and sexual minority rights and increase access to emergency aid.

According to the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC ), “MADRE works towards a world in which all people enjoy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; in which resources are shared equitably and sustainably; in which women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and in which people have a meaningful say in decisions that affect their lives.”

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr