In an effort to update my blog more often, I am starting a 'Photo Of The Week' series. I will attempt to update you with visual images and words regarding life in Sudan.
This week I want to introduce you to Alex M. Alex is a 20 year-old man from southern Sudan. When he was six his mother died from an unknown disease. When Alex was eleven his father died, most likely from tuberculosis, but it remains unclear the exact diagnosis.
Alex has always valued education and views it as a 'way out' of poverty and despair. When he was 15 years old he moved thirty miles away from his extended family to attend secondary school (high school). He lived by himself in a small hut, cooked all his own food, cleaned his own clothes, and studied every night by candle light. He did this for three years.
When Alex finished his S3 class, he was to sit for his end of secondary school exams. If you pass the exams you graduate from school, and if you do well, you can seek admission at university. On the day of the exam you are required to pay a small fee. Unfortunately, Alex had no money so he could not pay the fee and the school would not allow him to take the exam. So he could not graduate, even though he had finished all the class requirements.
Alex saved any money he could collect, helping people make bricks and other small jobs. Eventually he saved up enough money to return to secondary school. He was required to redo the entire year of S3 because he never took the exam. So he redid the course work, and on the day of the final exam he was able to pay the required priced. He passed the exam, and did well enough to qualify for university.
Alex longs to go to university, but as is the case for many here, he does not have the money to attend university. In an effort to seek education in any form, he has attended numerous classes and training seminars, lasting from one week to three months. He has been 'trained' in first aid, malnutrition awareness, democracy education, and discipleship.
He has a passion for community development, and he would love to see southern Sudan continue to develop. His ideas are numerous and his hopes to somehow make southern Sudan a better place for all those living.
I met Alex one day while playing volleyball. At the end of most days, I head over to the local volleyball court and hang out with a bunch of young and middle-aged people. It is a great time of conversation, culture learning, and getting to enjoy volleyball!
Several months ago I was intently seeking a language helper, and I literally asked 50 or more people if they knew of someone that could teach me. The same day I met Alex I asked him if he would be interested. He initially said no, as he was afraid he would not know how to teach, but eventually agreed to give it a try.
He has been a HUGE blessing in my life and an answer to much prayer. He is GREAT language teacher and an even better friend. He has blessed my life.
Six weeks ago Alex received a phone call from his extended family that lives 75 miles away. They said they needed him to come help them at their home immediately. So the next day Alex was forced to leave Mundri and head 75 miles away to help his family. In this culture, your family, even extended family, is respected highly and you obey their wishes. As such, Alex will most likely be away until December.
Alex's story is similar to many young people that live in southern Sudan. Death, war, and lack of funds have created some difficult challenges to overcome. But like many, Alex is trying to make a better life for himself and those around him. Despite his setbacks, his joy is contagious and he is determined to pursue his goals.
(In the photo above Alex is with his nieces, nephews, and various young relatives. He is wearing a Fort Recovery Indians t-shirt that I gave him. Fort Recovery is the name of the home town where I grew up and my parents still live in Ohio.)