MAKING AN IMPACT: Rochester nonprofit provides education in South Sudan

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 6:23 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A group in Southeast Minnesota is creating opportunities for success in Africa.

“There is a future full of hope.”

Father Jerry Mahon, Pastor, Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

It all started in 2015. A then-associate priest at Rochester’s Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist made his dream of building a school in his home village in South Sudan a reality, with help from current Pastor Father Jerry Mahon and St. Johns parishioners.

“There was a great energy and a tremendous sign of hope and new life,” Father Mahon said.

From that, Seeds of Wisdom (SOW) was born. It raised a million dollars to create the school and hire teachers and an administrator to provide Sudanese children a quality catholic education.

Father Mahon added, “We have been able to do this by God’s design and God’s grace. It’s really the movement of the spirit, I do believe that.”

But after two years, a civil war erupted in South Sudan, forcing students, their families,. and staff to flee to Uganda. The school was left abandoned.

“The people were just moving for protection and for life,” Father Mahon said.

Nonprofit board members, including President Steven Deick, immediately went to work to figure out how to carry on their mission.

“Our administrator is a Ugandan, and he was able to track down the majority of our students and families, and so we just moved along with them and we rehired our teachers, we found them as well, and now we are just teaching in refugee camps,” Deick said.

For the past four years under the mango trees and in grass huts, Deick said 237 students have been given the gift of education.

“This is just truly something they are so proud of, so connected with. The families work so hard to make sure that their kids are available.”

Steven Deick, President, Seeds of Wisdom

“Even though they’re outside in these camps, they’re getting very good education. The teachers continue to be certified and to receive their own ongoing continuing education, which nourishes the young people,” Father Mahon said.

SOW is committed to continuing to grow the power of learning for decades to come, but needs community support to make it all happen.

On Sunday, September 25, the organization will host its biggest fundraiser of the year at the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at 6:30 p.m.

The benefit dinner will highlight what’s happening at the refugee camps, share stories from teachers and students, and a South Sudanese choir will perform.

Tickets are available online or at the Parish Center of St. Johns.

To learn more about getting involved with SOW, click here.

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