Laying the foundation

Amet_and_Angelo

Amet_and_AngeloLost Boys’ dream beginning to come to fruition
By luke eggleston
SUN staff writer

For Angelo Kiir and Garang Daniel Amet, their dream of building a clinic in their native southern Sudan came a step closer to realization this past year.

In March, Amet returned from Sudan having laid the foundation — both literally and metaphorically — for the clinic. While Amet was in Sudan working on the structure’s initial phases, Kiir remained in Central New York tirelessly fund raising to finance the ensuing phase.

“We have the difficult part out of the way. Now we have to begin construction,” Amet said.

Amet returned to Sudan Oct. 28, 2007. Upon arrival at the location for the clinic, Malek-Alel (which is located south of Aweil), Amet spent two weeks training the local community. Before laying the foundation could even begin, Amet and the locals had to build a kiln in order to fire the bricks.

Finally, on March 8, Bishop Deng Majark of the Diocese of Awau and Northern Bahr-El khazel, along with Father Angelo Agany, blessed the site of the future clinic.

Amet said it was very satisfying to see this initial phase bear fruit.

“I was very happy to see the first milestone that we accomplished,” Amet said. “And that was making me more excited because that’s a big part that I already accomplished.”

He also stressed, however, that the foundation is just one part in the grander scheme. He hopes that when people in Central New York become aware of the work that has already been done, they will be more willing to support the ensuing steps in the project.

“I was very happy because if I accomplish this part, the bricks, then it will motivate people to give me more money so that I can accomplish this dream to come true to this poor society,” Garang said.

In 2006, Amet secured sponsorship from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center to pursue financing for the clinic, which will be named after St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of Sudan who was canonized Oct. 1, 2000.

Since 2006, both Amet and Kiir physically carried medical equipment and supplies to the site in order to start helping those with immediate needs. Skaneateles-based medical manufacturer Welch Allyn provided the equipment. Dr. Gerard Rodziewicz, a doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center, wrote prescriptions for the Sudanese so that the Lost Boys could provide them with specialized medication for malaria. In order to acquire the inexpensive medication from French medical wholesaler CHMP, the Lost Boys needed to legitimize St. Josephine Bakhita Clinic with an established medical director. Rodziewicz said he was happy to help the Lost Boys and agreed to fill the role of medical director for the clinic. Rodziewicz prescribed the medication and Amet was able to pick it up in Nairobi, Kenya.

With the help of Cindy Falise, interim director of Catholic Charities for the Syracuse Diocese; Carl Oropallo, a local attorney and St. Vincent de Paul Church parishioner; and Brian Walton, director of Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Kiir has toured numerous local parishes and other institutions in an effort to help finance further stages of the St. Josephine Bakhita Clinic. Many of these presentations have included screenings of God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary on the plight of the Lost Boys that features another local Sudanese, John Bul Dau. After each screening, Kiir answered questions about his homeland and the Lost Boys, a group of 3,800 Sudanese refugees who arrived in the U.S. in 2001 and settled in 38 cities, including Syracuse.

Amet and Kiir met one another in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and they have remained friends ever since. The two Lost Boys arrived in Central New York on June 12, 2001.

Kiir acknowledged that while he might prefer returning to Sudan to work on the clinic, he knows how critical his local fund-raising efforts are to the project.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit frustrating but the people of this local community understand our situation. Because of all our stories they know the situation that we have been facing. Individual people feel they can help out in some way at least,” Kiir said.

Both Kiir and Amet work at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Kiir said that on occasion, a former patient will read an article in a local newspaper and feel motivated to help the Lost Boys and the Sudanese.

“Sometimes when they read an article that we send out to them, they feel sympathy because of the situation that we were in when we were passing through Ethiopia and then the time when we came to the U.S. not knowing anything and now we speak English so that other people can understand our situation,” Kiir said.

Kiir said he has offered his presentation at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville and Holy Cross in DeWitt, as well as Holy Trinity, St. John the Baptist, Blessed Sacrament and St. Vincent de Paul in Syracuse. He also spoke at St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles. Both Amet and Kiir attend St. Vincent de Paul. One presentation at Skaneateles High School proved particularly productive as the students presented Kiir with a check for $3,000.

Kiir recently secured a matching grant for $25,000 from an anonymous donor. The Lost Boys and their supporters must raise the difference for a total of $50,000. That amount, in addition to the funds already raised, should cover the construction costs of the clinic. Kiir hopes to procure additional funding to pay for basic necessities such as training and medical equipment.

Those wishing to contribute to St. Josephine Bakhita Clinic may send checks to St. Vincent de Paul Church, 342 Vine St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13203. For more information, call (315) 479-6689.

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