Nestled in the upper region of South Carolina, is a town called York. There you will discover retired educators Bud and Suzanne Jones and the members of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Since 2006, Bud and Suzanne have been rallying the congregation and town friends to learn about Southern Sudan. They have encouraged them to take action to help raise up young Sudanese living in the African country, as well as refugees known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan” presently living in America.
To fully understand the circumstances in a post-war, developing country, Bud and Suzanne traveled to Southern Sudan – not just once, but twice! And both times they brought other people with them! The Joneses met with young people in Sudan, walked in their community, and played baseball with a group of girls at Yei Girls Boarding Secondary School. They taught special classes and even concocted banana pudding with the school cooks. Still to this day, our students ask, “When will South Carolina come back to make more banana pudding with us?”
Buoyed by the efforts of Bud and Suzanne, the good people of York have contributed to Africa ELI’s agriculture initiatives, given laptop computers for student usage, created handmade market bags for students, provided sewing machines for the Yei girls, crafted jewelry for fundraisers, and designed nativity sets to sell with proceeds going to Africa ELI student programs and scholarships. Along with these activities, and more – including the building of a bridge over a muddy road – their work has resulted in over $30,000 directed to help Sudanese young people achieve goals and gain access to education.
And they are not stopping! They keep going. Bud and Suzanne, along with some of their Trinity UMC friends are packing up beaded jewelry items to sell in a Christmas craft fair next week at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Again, the beneficiaries of the sales will be Africa ELI students.
York residents have also written letters of advocacy to their elected leaders in Washington, DC alerting them to issues of importance and policy decision making relative to progress in Southern Sudan. Additionally, a local York newspaper has published articles submitted by Suzanne and York children have colored pictures and written letters to our students. The kids even had a (mini)tractor race down the church hallway to raise money for our farm.
Our program director, Diane Birungi, and I were hosted by Bud and Suzanne last year in York. We were humbled by the warmth of their welcome, inspired by their clear commitment to global outreach, and thankful for the opportunity to know such kind people. And we surely enjoyed the music of the church choir!
To Bud and Suzanne, and to their friends in York, South Carolina, we recognize you as Champion Changemakers for making a very positive difference in our world!