A few months ago I wrote about the tricky decision to leave my VSO placement. Since then I’ve been busy finding a new routine for my last few months in Kenya and have been lucky enough to stumble across some incredible opportunities to volunteer with interesting and excellent NGOs. There is one in particular that I wanted to write about because the challenges they are tackling have struck me deeply.
The Nuba Mountains form an isolated region in Sudan. Ethnically, religiously, culturally diverse, the Nuba people are united by one thing; they feel they landed on the wrong side of the border following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan that saw the South become the world’s youngest country in 2011.
Since then being at odds with the government in Khartoum has put the people of Nuba under dire stress. They are struggling to survive in a war zone as the Sudanese military fight the rebel forces and civilians get stuck in the cross fire. Struggling to survive through the collapse of all basic services. Struggling to earn a living or find food through the devastation of businesses and agriculture. And struggling to know where to turn for help since the forced withdrawal of almost all international humanitarian support.
A limited number of dedicated – primarily local and faith-based – NGOs remain. The Nuba Mountains has an overwhelming, baffling number of needs for these NGOs to meet. But for the community, education is the number one priority. They see it as the only way to secure peace and stability in the long-time and are determined to ensure that no more generations of children grow up without this foundation.
But funding for education is tough to come by. First up education falls in a frustrating grey zone in the world of international aid, technically being classed as part of the development sector and so neglected in humanitarian and emergency situations where health, shelter and food provision rise to the top. But on top of that, the Khartoum government has banned any international actors, including the UN, attempting to channel support to the region, so starving the NGOs that do remain.
I imagine you can guess by now what I’m trying to help with…It’s fair to say I didn’t think being a fundraiser would ever make me feel like a secret detective! But I spend my days running around town, arranging meetings at coffee shops and Skyping various parts of the world, trying to track down any advice possible on who may risk providing funding and how to get this channelled. So far the leads are few but the moral support overwhelming. Everyone I talk to cares deeply about getting the Nuba people the help they deserve but hands are all too frequently tied.
So I’m not sure what we will find over the next few weeks, whether the money will turn up, but I can certainly say I’ve never felt so motivated to work evenings and weekends before…
I’m still learning about the conflict – and working out which news sources to trust – but if you want to understand more about this crisis, which hasn’t hit the headlines in quite the same way as Darfur, this might be a good place to start: