Lutheran Church of Peace in Platteville is making a $60,000 donation to an organization that runs a school for orphan girls in South Sudan.
African Soul, American Heart is building a dormitory for its 31-student school in Duk County in Jonglei, the largest state of the newest country in the world.
The dorm, expected to open in May, will help the school reach its enrollment goal of 50 girls.
“Our intention is to educate them all the way through school so they will be leaders in their communities,” said ASAH’s Deb Dawson, who spoke at Lutheran Church of Peace Sunday.
The girls’ parents die of such causes as malnutrition, disease, snakebites and violence from the ongoing civil war. About 1 in 10 South Sudanese mothers die in childbirth, and about 1 in 5 South Sudanese children die before their fifth birthday.
“As a church we feel we are called to serve in South Sudan,” said Rev. Jeff Pedersen, LCP’s pastor. “We try to help with education of these young orphan girls.
“We’ve supported a number of students when they go to universities and colleges from South Sudan. And they’ve all been male students. We see it’s important to educate females.”
Unlike many African countries, the main barrier to educating girls is not opposition to educating girls.
“It’s not a Muslim area, so it’s not like men are opposed in the same way,” said Dawson. “But women are married young, and it’s a lot of work to raise a family. They’re not opposed to educating women; they just haven’t had the opportunity.”
Dawson said tribal chiefs in the village the school is located in invited ASAH to build there.
“They know their country will not develop — they won’t have a middle class without educated women,” she said. “They’re married off at 14, 15, 16, 17. Most people in this area are illiterate. Most villages don’t have a school for boys or girls.”
ASAH seeks to build a kitchen/dining building for its enrollment goal. It also wants to install solar power and a battery system so the school doesn’t have to use a generator, and a solar-powered refrigerator. The school now has no refrigerator.
“Our program is making a difference each and every day we’re there,” said Dawson. “Our program is changing lives. Other girls see our students and say if these orphan girls can go to school, why can’t we?”
“We’re just so excited to partner with them,” said Pedersen, “and that will open the door to lots of mission work in the future.”