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Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women
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Susan Jackson-Dowd
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wells for Akobo, South Sudan

The 2012 Churchwide Gathering Offering was received to create wells in Akobo, South Sudan. The wells will offer clean, accessible water for families and the local hospital.

A wealth for wells

By Yvonne Hileman

At each Churchwide Gathering, a special offering is received during plenary to benefit a specific mission need. At this Gathering, attendees gave $40,655.82 to fund water wells in Akobo, South Sudan.

The population of Akobo County has increased significantly as people relocate there, seeking refuge from the violent conflicts that have racked the region for many years. Women walk long distances—often over difficult terrain, through dangerous areas, with children in tow—to secure water from one of the few wells in the county. Illnesses caused by contaminated water are common, especially among children.

Funds from the offering will be used to create up to 20 wells in Akobo County. PC(USA) mission coworker Jim McGill, a geologist specializing in water source development, will provide technical support. Jim and an African water technician will work with Presbyterian Relief and Development, the community development office of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan. Community members will dig and maintain the wells.

Sharon Curry, a new PC(USA) mission coworker serving in South Sudan, will offer community education targeting women, who traditionally secure a family’s water. She will assist in training community development committees, and support them as they initiate and manage efforts aimed at bringing about sustainable change. Community education addresses health issues related to the use of unsafe water and how children may be more susceptible to water-borne disease from unsafe water sources than adults.

In addition to the women and families who will benefit from this project, the PC(USA)-supported Akobo Hospital also will finally have clean, convenient water. It is the only hospital in the entire county where clinics can refer patients for further treatment. The hospital has struggled to offer treatment since water is scarce or contaminated. At least two wells will be dug on Akobo Hospital grounds.

Presbyterian Women’s generous support of this project will provide clean water to Akobo County, free women from the burden of fetching water over long distances, bring physical and mental health to children who will no longer be vulnerable to illnesses caused by contaminated water, improve lifestyles through health education and boost communities whose members will be working together to bring safe drinking water and improved health to their villages.

As Elizabeth Nyawok, an elder in South Sudan who attended the Gathering as a Global Partner, reflected, “Women risk attack each time they must go for water and food for their families.” Women often must go in the middle of the night and walk as far as ten miles for fresh water.

During the plenary on Friday, July 20, PW vice moderator for mission relationships Alice Wyatt spoke about the offering, saying, “Your gift today will allow water to flow in Akobo.” Muriel Stephens said, “Presbyterian women can and are changing the world. Open your hearts and purses wide!”

The offering was received in buckets to symbolize the difficulty women in South Sudan face in providing life-giving water for themselves and their families.

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