Univ Adv - Communications
January 9, 2012
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The next time you take a 5th Avenue taxicab, take a close look at your driver. If he is Garang (Anthony) Makwach, he is not only getting you safely to your destination, but he is a school builder, U of L accounting student, community volunteer and an agent for change in South Sudan, one of the world’s newest -- and poorest -- countries.
Makwach, age 25, was born during a prolonged civil war between what are now the countries of Sudan and South Sudan, and lost his parents as a result of the conflict.
At age seven and in the care of his uncle, he walked and hitch-hiked more than 500 km to the Kenya/Sudan border, leaving his two younger sisters and a brother behind to become a refugee with an uncertain future.
“I had an opportunity and privilege to go to a high school in Kenya. I got my diploma, and now am attending the U of L, where I am training to become an accountant,” Makwach said.
He came to Canada in 2007 and, in addition to attending school, has worked full time to support his family in South Sudan ever since, returning as often as possible to his home community of Abouk (pronounced Ab-wark) since hostilities diminished.
Makwach said that his long-term dream is the construction of a school building to assist the children of the 5,000-resident community, which will help up to 600 young people with their education – including his younger sister and his three-year-old and newborn nieces.
South Sudan, as the world’s newest country, is also the poorest – a majority of its 8 million citizens live on less than $1 (CDN) per day. Life expectancy and literacy rates are low, infant mortality rates are high, basic medical care is scarce, education is difficult to obtain and the economy is unstable.
The landlocked nation was officially recognized as an independent country in 2011 after years of civil war and an independence accord with Sudan that, in 2005, gave the region some autonomy.
“I went back to the South Sudan this past summer to celebrate the country’s independence, and to visit my family,” Makwach said.
“I was so inspired, and at the same time heartbroken, to see how the kids were struggling for their education. They have no school, were taking classes under a tree and were being taught by volunteers. I built a small shelter with my own funds, and came back to Canada with the idea for a project – to build a building big enough for at least 600 elementary school children.”
A school is located in a nearby community, but a more than 20km journey -- one way -- makes the distance too great for young children to travel on foot.
“The challenge is that the government doesn’t have funds for a school building. If we can build one, we show that we are serious about educating the children in my community, and that might help us get more resources.”
Those resources may be coming sooner than later. The University of Lethbridge Rotaract Club has stepped in to help Makwach with his project, and will host “Guir Ku Baai – Building Peace through Education”, its 7th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction on Saturday, February 4, 2012 in the Grand Ballroom at the Lethbridge Lodge.
The direct connection between Anthony, his family in Abouk, and the dedication of the community to build the school formed the basis for the Rotaract group’s support for this project.
“It is Anthony’s dream to see a school built in his community, and we are working to make his dream a reality,” said Eva Gorny, Rotaract’s Vice-President, External Affairs.
“The Rotaract event typically raises between $10,000 and $15,000 per year or more. We are hopeful that most, if not all, the needed funds will be raised at this event.”
Makwach’s family members in Abouk and area are builders, and the cost of materials will be offset by volunteer labour from the community.
Since each Canadian dollar is worth three South Sudan pounds, the funds raised in Canada will go a long way to help build the facility, mainly to acquire materials not available in Abouk, such as sheet metal for the roof, and the forms and other resources to construct the brick walls and flooring.
Several international aid and development organizations are active in the country, but there remains a significant need for specific projects – such as the Rotaract Abouk School Project – that can help communities develop on their own.
Tickets are $65 each, or $450 for a table of eight. Students may purchase a ticket for $40.
Silent auction items, gifts-in-kind, and monetary donations are also appreciated. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase tickets or for additional information.
See a brief video presentation from Anthony at this website: http://vimeo.com/33668154
The U of L Rotaract Club is a not-for-profit service club that is part of Rotary International. Alongside more than 7,000 Rotaract clubs in 163 countries worldwide, the U of L Rotaract Club fundraises, volunteers and, most importantly, raises awareness for both local and international needs.
Over the past six years, the U of L Rotaract Club has raised more than $100,000 for projects in such varied locations as Burkina-Faso, Iqaluit, Malawi and, this year, South Sudan.
For more information, please contact: Eva Gorny, Vice President External Affairs
Phone: (403) 360-3843