South Sudanese women given a glimpse of hope by West Michigan-based organization

Posted at 10:34 PM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-11 22:34:28-04

WERKOK, South Sudan.—A West Michigan non-profit is on a mission to save the people of South Sudan.

It’s one of the world’s newest countries that is caught in a constant state of unrest. It’s a group called Sow Hope and they went to South Sudan focused on the women who were caught in the chaos of war.

FOX 17’s Cassandra Arsenault got the chance to see them in action as she went across the world to South Sudan with them.

The women in South Sudan are caught in a culture of constant war. Their husbands have been killed, their children stolen and a relentless fear that leaves little room for hope. Sow Hope is looking to change their life by re-evaluating their sense of purpose.

The women in the Dinka tribe do it all. On a regular day they will be fetching water miles away, logging firewood back to their tukuls. They are the epicenter of their villages to say the least. They spend most of their days cooking meals for their families. Aside from prepping food for the family, they also hand wash clothes daily.

Their families lean on them. It’s not uncommon to see men sitting around in groups of their own expecting women to do all the housework.

The women are the ultimate maternal figures but have lost their identities as war takes over their villages.

“The army come and destroy many lives in this area,” said Mary Grand, a woman leader of her villages.

Garang is an inherent leader in the Bor and Werkok area for her Dinka tribe. The women look to her for help and advice. Unlike many women in the villages, Garang can speak English and was able to get an education.

“I want women to stand on their own feet and to be strong and to encourage each other,  and to think they can do anything men do,” she said.

The rival tribes are murdering their husbands, and stealing their children, and it has left them in constant fear.

“We think this is the way of the devil playing with our life,” said Garang.

Sow Hope, a nonprofit from West Michigan, went to their villages to try to change their mindset.

“Sow Hope is an organization that is dedicated to inspiring women around the world by promoting wellness, education, and economic opportunities,” said Mary Brown, co-founder of the organization.

Brown connected with Garang through Memorial Christian Hospital. Garang is the only woman with enough influence to get all the woman of the village into one room.

“So what I do is try to come and encourage you to decide how you want to make your lives better,” said Brown to a room full of Sudanese women.

Sow Hope’s goal is to hear what they have to say. They are adamant in not pushing Western values on the women. Then they try to turn that into a project where the women can make some money. Sow Hope has funded 93 projects in 14 countries stemming from Asia, other parts of Africa, and South America.

“We target impoverished women and half of the women in the world make less than two dollars a day so that’s about 1.5 billion women,” said Brown.

The Sudanese women come up with an idea to make a profit by farming.

“Well what would make it successful is if they actually work together. If they plant these seeds and they get a crop and they get a profit,” said Brown.

These women lean on each other more than ever during these hard times.

“By giving the women the ability to earn some money and have money in their hand and make decisions about where that money is going to go in their family, it helps the husbands to respect them,” said Brown.

The women came up with a budget to give to Sow Hop.

“They want me to buy seeds ground peanuts, okra, kale and onions,” said Brown.

Sow Hope left them with $500  to start their project. That money will fund the seeds, and most of the tools they’ll need.

“Because these women do all this work and they are the nurtures of the culture, when you empower them it elevates the whole society. I didn’t know this when I started Sow Hope, but I believe it now. If you empower women, impoverished women, you have discovered the key to unlocking the problems of poverty,” said Brown.

Garang believes that these tools are what they have been waiting for this whole time.

“This is our land, this is our own area. We suffered but we must come back and pray,” said Garang.

Sow Hope checks in with the women in a few months and reported on where their project stands. If the women are cultivating and selling the vegetables they grow, Sow Hope will support them with additional funds after they fill out an application.

Tuesday night on FOX 17 news at 10, we will get an exclusive look inside Memorial Christian Hospital. We will see what surgeries doctors are performing on a daily basis, and how they are saving lives with medicine and equipment that the Sudanese have never seen before.

To learn more about Sow Hope click here.