Atar, South Sudan. Land of the Paweny people in the state of Jonglei.
For Red Deer’s Monybany Dau, it will always be home.
“I am a part of the history of South Sudan and I want it to get better,” said Dau, 39, a former child soldier who fled the region in the 1980s amidst the brutality of civil war. “And I’ve been fighting ever since I was a child to try to change the lives of people of my village and really my entire country.”
Water is the issue at the forefront now, he said.
“Many waterborne disease are the causes of death of many children. I had six brothers of mine who died at the age of eight or five or less due to waterborne disease. I’m lucky to be alive. … And that is why I am trying to do something, what I can.”
People in Atar collect rainwater and use the river for drinking and their basic needs, Dau said.
He wants to see clean drinking water fully accessible to the community and has been planning to dig wells for a couple of years.
Now, thanks to new partnerships, he hopes that will become a reality later this fall.
Working with A Better World Canada, a Central Alberta-based international development organization run by volunteers, the Atar Water Project was supposed to head to South Sudan in January to begin drilling.
A power struggle in the capital in December and numerous ethnic killings and instability afterwards has delayed the initiative.
Recently, the project has joined forces with the Alaska Sudan Medical Project, a grassroots organization committed to bringing clean water sources as well as boosting medical infrastructure and supporting agricultural development in South Sudan since 2008.
A retired engineer, Merv Schafer of Calgary, has also teamed up with fellow Atar Water Project volunteers. Schafer has years of experience with humanitarian and development projects in southern Sudan. He said aligning with ASMP is a “breakthrough” for the project.
“It’s one thing to raise money for wells but then there’s always the question of who will drill them,” he said.
A friend of Dau’s heard about ASMP, drilling wells about 65 km away from Atar in a place called Old Fangak, so Schafer made a call earlier this year.
Once security is more established in the country, ASMP will begin drilling for the Atar Water Project, starting with a goal of 10 wells and a long-term goal of 50, said Schafer.
“The great thing about them is they use the appropriate technology. To get a bore hole drilled in East Africa, typically you’re using a company that comes out of Kenya and their rigs are a quarter of a million each and getting them up on a barge and so on is a business risk.”
ASMP uses technology you can pull behind a pickup truck or even by hand, he explained.
They also train local people.
For Dau, the partnership with ASMP gives more “credibility” to the project and he hopes it will encourage more donors to get involved.
“They teach sustainability. So people can take up the ownership. The problem with other similar projects is that we go there, do it, leave and the next day the project isn’t working because we haven’t taught them to carry on or how to fix it if something goes wrong,” Dau said.
“It’s a partnership between the project and community; it’s the same with A Better World, which is why I was drawn to them actually.”
Just over $39,000 has been donated to the project so far but anonymous donors have recently come forward with an announcement that they will match all future donations up to $40,000, for total of $80,000. This would bring the project budget to $119,000, which helps, said Dau, as each well can cost around $15,000. A Better World hopes to secure $150,000 for the project.
They hope to start drilling late this fall, depending on the political situation in South Sudan.
For more on Dau’s story, visit www.ladderofmylife.com.
To donate, visit www.abwcanada.ca or call 403-782-0325.