How CRESS began sewing seeds in South Sudan
Founding of CRESS UK
CRESS UK (Christian Relief and Education for South Sudan) was founded in 2011 by Caroline Lamb, following her visit to Kajo Keji in 2009 with the Flame International charity. This visit left Caroline very moved by the plight of the people, lack of education and health provision and poor infrastructure.
During this first visit she was privileged to meet some influential people in South Sudan and was inspired by Bishop Anthony Poggo, the charismatic and energetic Bishop of Kajo Keji. Bishop Anthony became an early influential and committed supporter in the region and was key to the growth of CRESS UK in its early years. He now works in London as an Anglican Adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Upon returning home Caroline shared her vision with her local community of the Chalke Valley, Wiltshire, where she lives and started fundraising in earnest to help the people she had met. This community continues to support CRESS UK and the people of South Sudan.
CRESS concentrated its work on the South Sudanese community of the Diocese of Kajo Keji; the South Sudanese Anglican Church was virtually the only structured and functioning organisation in the country. A significant partnership agreed in 2014 between CRESS UK and St James’ Church in Devizes, Wiltshire further strengthened the Anglican links between the Dioceses of Kajo Keji and those in South Wiltshire.
Several main challenges presented themselves to the development of self-support within this community:
Initially, the education of the clergy children through UK sponsorship freed the clergy to be more available to work for CRESS and made a start on educating future leaders of the country. We now sponsor over 80 children in all stages of education. All of our Sponsors have a named child, and the children know who their sponsor is and write to them once a year. Sponsors are given a progress report annually and encouraged to create a gift box which is delivered to their child during the annual September trip to the region.
In September 2015 a Clinic was opened in Liwolo, providing health care in the area. The clinic employed a nurse, midwife, laboratory assistant and dispensing assistant. Solar power to the clinic meant medicines could be kept cool and investigative testing carried out on site.
To encourage diversified crop growing for a better diet and for commercial sale CRESS funds local people to attend the Kasenge Riverford Organic Farm School in Uganda. They return with much hope and knowledge, putting what they have learnt into practice and sharing with others. CRESS also supplies tools and seeds to help them get their own gardens started.
Helping small businesses is a vital element of CRESS work and we are particularly interested in working with the women of the community. One woman, Florence, set up her knitting business with one contract and has since secured two further contracts and opened a tea room! Other vocational training, such as vehicle mechanics, is provided as funds permit.
The clergy carry a great burden in the support of their congregations. CRESS provides spiritual support and biblical education as a necessary aid to the clergy, mainly through an annual clergy conference, which in 2015 was attended by pastors from several dioceses and was held at the Kajo Keji Cathedral.
However, in 2013 a civil war broke out in South Sudan. Initially, this did not affect the Diocese of Kajo Keji in the south of the country, but during 2017 it reached their area and virtually the whole local population fled over the nearby border into Northern Uganda and were dispersed into refugee and displaced persons camps. The work of CRESS came to an abrupt end within South Sudan and had to be re-established afresh in Northern Uganda in very different circumstances. Some facilities and programmes were saved:
All the CRESS sponsored education was already based in Northern Uganda and continued unaffected.
- Medical Support
By great Sudanese ingenuity the entire medical stock, equipment and even roof solar panels were spirited away from the existing clinic and into Northern Uganda as the basis of a new clinic established in Mijale with professional local staff.
The Diocese of Kajo Keije under Bishop Emmanuel was then split to create a new Diocese of Liwolo with the Rev. Joseph Aba elevated to its bishop. The congregations of both dioceses are spread over enormous distances in camps, which makes their support very difficult. The new Diocese of Liwolo based in Arua under Bishop Joseph is the delivery partner for CRESS their office is based in Arua, Northern Uganda. The Anglican Church of South Sudan has a partnership agreement with the Anglican Church in Uganda, which facilitates their work.
- CRESS Governance
CRESS has established a revised, legal charity governance structure under which the two diocesan bishops are designated Delivery Partners and are responsible in-country for the implementation and delivery of agreed CRESS projects.
CRESS is now fully active again in Northern Uganda with clear business plans and procedures. The Vision of enabling community self-sufficiency, both in exile and on eventual return to South Sudan, remains intact. The emphasis for CRESS is on long-term development based on continuing personal contact.
If you would like to help us to continue supporting the South Sudanese people, please get in touch with us or make a donation.