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Monday, 19 August 2013 12:02

Students hear about Sudan and East Timor

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Catholic College Sale (CCS) students welcomed two guest speakers to the Sion Campus. Deng Chuor, a Sudanese trainee priest and Marist Brother Frank McIntosh, leader of the 2013 CCS East Timor Immersion. Both Deng and Br Frank spoke to the group of Year 7 and 8 students about schools in South Sudan and East Timor for which they are raising awareness. Afterwards the students held a fundraising barbeque to raise money to support these worthy causes. 

Deng presented a touching and emotionally charged speech revealing his upbringing in Southern Sudan, Northern Africa where civil war, poverty and hatred are customary and peace uncertain. Deng recounted his childhood growing up in a land of anguish and famine as the Southern Sudanese were unable to grow food or earn money to feed themselves, therefore malnutrition and starvation became widespread.  

At a young age Deng recalled walking for days with his family in the torturous African heat without any food or water to flee to Kenya in an attempt to avoid the dangerous war raging in their homeland. At this stage of his early life Deng was doubtful that he would survive. His family, along with thousands of other families lived in one of the biggest refugee camps in the world called Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is located in the northern part of Kenya. The most astounding and heart breaking information that Deng shared with us was of his brothers, as young as nine years old being recruited by the Sudanese Army as ‘child soldiers’, to fight for their country and for the Christians in the civil war.  Deng’s Mother was desperate to take her children and herself to a free country where life was promising and where dreams could come true. 

After twelve years in the Kakuma Refugee camp, Deng, his mother and siblings left Sudan to start a new life in Australia. After completing his schooling in Adelaide, Deng remembers the difficult times in Sudan and the caring and compassionate priests and nuns from the Western world who had dedicated their lives to helping those less fortunate in Southern Sudan. 

Deng spoke to the Year 7 and 8 Catholic College Sion students saying “I found it difficult to understand why these priests and nuns would leave their wonderful countries to come and live with refugees. When I thought back later, I was deeply moved by their work and commitment. I still remember what my parish priest would say to me “They take your cattle and burn your homes, they take your mothers and kill your fathers, but be sure of one thing they will never take away, our faith, hope and love of Christ is always yours to keep”. This is what inspired me to become a priest”. This career path will allow Deng to go back to African Countries and provide support and assistance to those who are experiencing the life that he once lived. 

Deng is now supporting a school in Southern Sudan called Cabra Primary School. The school is named after Cabra Dominican College; Deng’s old high school in Adelaide. Deng is aiming to enhance the quality of the school to ensure that each child achieves an education that will create a brighter future. Currently the school has only two inside buildings for the children to learn and Deng is working to raise money that will allow the construction of classrooms that will be more productive in the rain seasons.  

"The aim for Cabra Primary School is to teach the children Christian values that are based on love as this is what [Sudan] needs," said Deng. "My dream is that the message of Christ will be received by the young Sudanese people so that they may in the future create a better Sudan where peace, love and freedom reign." 

"In my life as a refugee, I have learnt that anything that does not kill me makes me strong, for me life is precious and valuable. It deserves respect from conception to natural death. Coming to Australia has opened my eyes to know that there is more to life than war."  

Br Frank McIntosh also spoke about the immersion experience which will be held for a group of Year 11 students in East Timor in September to become acquainted with the life and culture of the East Timorese and in some way help them.

The Marist Brothers’ involvement in East Timor began in 2000, when the Brothers were asked to assume the leadership of the newly founded Teachers College in Baucau. Three places in and around the city of Baucau were identified for CCS to assist - the Catholic school at Abafala, the Literacy & Youth Centre at Ponte Leste and a youth and study centre called ‘Oasis’ in the poor area of the town of Baucau. 

With two other Marist Colleges, Galen College Wangaratta and Notre Dame Shepparton, funds are being raised to rebuild the Catholic Primary school at Abafala. 

(Photo, left to right: Deng Chour, Matthew Gover, Br Frank and Shannon Darmuc)

If you would like more information on Deng, Cabra Primary School in Southern Sudan and the East Timor Project, or you would like to support or contribute to this worthy cause please contact Miss Natalie Gned at Catholic College Sale, Sion Campus or go to the Catholic College Sale website

This article is an edited version from a media release of Catholic College Sale and has also appeared in the July 2013 edition of Catholic Life, the official publication of the Catholic Diocese of Sale in Victoria.