Building a library, one step at a time

Cobbers for PACODES hosted the 2009 Fargo-Moorhead WalkSUDAN Saturday, Oct. 3, to raise awareness and funds for a library in the Panyijiar County of southern Sudan.

Walking with a megaphone, group members sang out “they walked to live,” while the rest of the group responded “we walk to give.” The walk began in Roosevelt Park near NDSU, traveled south along Broadway in Fargo into Moorhead, through the neighborhoods around MSUM and ended at the Concordia bell tower.

About 30 people were present for the start of the walk at 10 a.m., and a few more walkers trickled in throughout the two-hour duration. The participants held a white banner at the front of the group, which said “WalkSUDAN” in neon green letters.

WalkSUDAN raised $820 for the Panyijiar library. Donations from WalkSUDAN participants and sponsors were collected prior to the walk.

Concordia senior Christina Boyles, a member of Cobbers for PACODES, said she was a little wary of how difficult it would be to raise funds for a library in Sudan.

“Now that I’ve seen the progress, I’m really excited about it,” she said.

Dr. Roy Hammerling, associate professor and chair of the religion department at Concordia, serves as a faculty advisor for Cobbers for PACODES. Hammerling said about $70,000 has been raised so far for the library project, but more is still needed. The exact amount needed for the library is still being decided, but was once estimated to be $100,000.

“Right now, we’re completely dependent on the generosity of people,” Hammerling said.

In addition to monetary funds, at the end of each semester, Cobbers for PACODES collects used textbooks donated by Concordia students for the library project. PACODES works with the organization Better World Books to compile the books and will ship them when the library is ready to be built. Hammerling said Better World Books sells some text books through sources like, and the money made from these sales are put toward more books to be purchased for the library.

PACODES stands for Panyijiar Community Development Services, and is an organization dedicated to providing the people of southern Sudan with resources, such as the library, to improve their quality of life. According to the PACOCODES website, during the Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1984 to 2005, the Lost Boys of Sudan fled their homes to escape death. They walked to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, not knowing if they would survive the journey.

Some of those who survived the walk from Sudan were able come to the United States and earn an education. One of those survivors was PACODES founder, Machien Justin Loui, who graduated from Concordia in 2006. Loui is currently in Sudan working with a contractor to get the library’s building plans finalized and underway.

Two of the Lost Boys were present at WalkSUDAN, Gat-Kier Machar and Abraham Gatwich were both present, along with Machar’s wife, Elizabeth, a Lost Girl from Sudan.

Gat-Kier Machar said the issues that lead to war in Sudan can be resolved if more education is made available to the area. He said once the people of Sudan are able to discuss and collaborate through the types of disagreements that caused the civil war, they can solve problems peacefully. He said U.N. representatives are currently in southern Sudan helping with basic human needs, but the area will benefit from the educational resources received from the library’s existence.

Sean Fahey and Jeremiah Hammerling, documentary-makers from Chicago, were present to take part in WalkSUDAN. They traveled to southern Sudan in April 2009 and while there, shot a short film called “We Meet in Peace.” The film is about a young Sudanese boy who finds a book and wants to learn to write his name. It is being used to promote awareness for the need of more education in southern Sudan.

According to the PACODES website, the population of Panyijiar County is 120,000 people, and it currently has a one percent literacy rate. Jeremiah Hammerling said the PACODES mission includes more than just building a library – it is about capacity building.

According to Fahey, giving the Sudanese people the ability to educate themselves and pass on what they know to future generations is key in helping them.

“All we’ve got to do is build a building and put books in it,” said Fahey. “[The Sudanese people] can do the rest.”

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