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PACODES comes back: Students revive inactive club to send books to Sudanese communities

After two years of remaining inactive, Cobbers for Panyijiar Community Development Services is making a comeback.

Roy Hammerling, the group’s faculty advisor, said the students have shown “incredible creativity and passion for (this group).”

PACODES is an official North Dakota nonprofit organization aimed to aid and improve the education, health, humanitarian aid, agriculture, faith and lifestyle of the people of Panyijiar County in southern Sudan.

The non-profit organization was created in 2007 by Concordia graduate and “Lost Boy” Machien Justin Luoi, who graduated in 2006, Hammerling, and a number of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan.  Many of the organization’s current leaders are connected to Concordia. Faculty participants also include Ronald Twedt, Joan Kopperud, Mike Bath, and Richard Chapman. Gat-Kier Machar Tholpi, a “Lost Boy” and one of Concordia’s security guards is also a co-leader of the organization.

Luoi has returned to Sudan and is an advocate overseeing PACODES’ efforts.

PACODES has already successfully completed its first initiative of creating a library for the Panyijiar community. The library will be full of a variety of books, including those for educational and medical personnel purposes, Hammerling said. These books were given to PACODES from Better World Books and Books for Africa, in exchange for the books collected by Cobbers in an end-of-the-semester book drive.

PACODES’ current task is raising the money to obtain a boat to transport the books up the Nile River from Juba, South Sudan, where they are currently being held, to the library in Panyijiar County. The boat will then be given to the community to use as a source of income.

Cobbers for PACODES is the student group aiming to raise funding for this organization.

The group was originally created by a handful of students in Kopperud’s English class, “Literature, Self, & Society,” in the fall of 2008. After reading the novel, “What is the What?” by Dave Eggers, and hearing personal stories from three “Lost Boys” who visited the class, students were so moved that they wanted to contribute their own efforts, Kopperud said. With the help of Hammerling and Kopperud, the student group was founded.

For the past two years, the student group was inactive. The original members had graduated and younger members had not been recruited to continue the group’s efforts.

The group became functional again this year when Chapman required the students of his history class, “Philanthropy, Religion, and American Culture,” to become members.

“(There is a) big difference between course requirement and students’ own self-generated desire to participate in this kind of work,” Chapman said. He believes the students appear to be feeling more of the latter.

“(The organization) is something students have picked up and run with,” Chapman said.

While the group started as a class requirement, it is open to all students.  Additionally, students will not need to be extremely active in order to be members.

“We base ourselves as a low-commitment organization,” said Dan Cooley, president of Cobbers for PACODES.

Cooley explains that the student group’s numbers have already doubled from the original seven.

Fundraising activities for the year will include selling t-shirts, wrist bands and buttons, and displaying a cardboard cut-out of a celebrity and asking people to pay to take a picture with the cut-out.

Even though Chapman does not require students to stay in the group after the semester ends, the group is expected to remain active.

“My sense right now is that students…will in fact continue to devote their energy and time and creativity and talents,” Chapman said.

This article was submitted by Amber Morgan. She can be reached at

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