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“Pencils for All” is a very small charitable organisation working on educational projects all around the world.
At the time of the Dakar General Assembly we were already preparing for more work in South Sudan, country torn by civil and ethnic war and violence. The country welcomed the much-needed peace just at the beginning of this year on the 22 February 2020, unfortunately the wonderful news was overshadowed by the COVID -19 spread around the world.
South Sudan is one of the youngest countries in the world, gain its independence from Sudan in June 2011 and ending the longest civil war in Africa. Sadly, the peace did not last. In 2013 yet another civil war started and the first three years were extremely violent and brutal.
Most of the missionaries working in South Sudan were ordered to leave the country. Only a few stayed and along with them my fellow parishioner Rebecca Mallinson, who’s determination I admire. She single handed raised funds in the UK and started to build a primary school in Numule, a town in southern part of the country by the border with Uganda. Nimule, once Madi Tribe territory is occupied by many other tribes and war refugees.
Each tribe proudly practice their own customs, language and law. In such an environment the CECE Primary School exists. In a Madi language “cece” means “slowly” and this is the real key to change being successfully accomplished.
CECE Primary provides free education to over 200 students from the poorest backgrounds. There are so many families affected by AIDS and HIV or other long-term sickness and diseases in Nimule.
There are also many orphans, who often witness their parents and other members of their family executed or separated from them during attacks or other war turmoil.
The school provides physical and spiritual refuge for all the children who attend. It is a space where they can step away from their troubled lives so that they can be children, free of worries for a few hours a day. It also provides role models for these children in the way of good teachers who are both male and female.
The school also works in partnership with local and international agencies and organisations to provide help when needed. There is also a close partnership with both the local parish priest and pastors, who if necessary, make home visits and offer advice and support to the victims of domestic abuse. They know the local culture and the tribal law and people quite often prefer to speak to them before speaking to other professionals.
I spent Autumn 2019 in South Sudan co-ordinating some work sponsored by “Pencils for All”. Although the school is not fully completed, I decided to build a playground. This may sound strange but I do believe and so does my organisation, that one of the rights of children is to have access to high quality play. I spent time in CECE Primary school working with the teachers and the children, supporting and encouraging good practice in delivering welfare to the pupils which reflects the CECE school motto: “Education is the hope for a better life”.
In the culture of discrimination and violence against women, the school management implemented examples of positive role models for both boys and girls. Many of the pupils need to see how being a positive member of their families, community and society in the hope for a better future could be achieved now and for the rest of their lives. CECE Primary School in Nimule is the only school in town not practicing corporal punishment and instead educating pupils and their families about the other ways of managing unwanted behaviour.
I am very proud of what my organisation achieved in South Sudan at CECE primary school. I do believe that my support while I was there will result in the continued success of the pupils, teachers and the school. I am sure that by spending some time and living with the locals, I personally provided a good role model for the local women I met. I “broke” local culture by co-ordinating building work and managing men, something unheard of in many places in Africa. I hope that I demonstrated that it is possible to work together with both mutual understanding and respect. I hope that the school playground will be seen as a symbol of freedom, childhood, respect and give everyone involved a hope for a future free from discrimination and violence against women.
Foundress and Chairwoman of “Pencils for All”
On 10 and 11 November 2021, the WUCWO European Regional Conference took place in Spain, as a hybrid event. Araceli Cavero, Vice President for Europe, invited women from WUCWO member organisations to discuss and learn about the theme of discrimination and violence against women.
These two days were enlightened by the prayer of the participants and marked by interesting activities: a conference on violence in the Bible, courageous and moving personal testimonies, a look beyond the borders of Europe with the work carried out for many years in Peru following the exactions of the Shining Path, and fruitful exchanges in workshops.
On the 17th-20th of last March the European Regional Conference was celebrated in Madrid. Around 40 women from France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain got together.
The chosen topic was the revision of the 5th resolution approved at the Fatima Assembly: working against the corruption. The slogan: “WUCWO women for the honesty and justice”.
On the 10th March 2016 the Regional Vice President for Europe, Araceli Cavero, was received by the President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Emmo. D. Ricardo Blaquez. The meeting was arranged to inform him of her election and to discuss WUCWO’s work and projects, and the celebration of the General Assembly and the resolutions adopted in Fatima. It was a very pleasant meeting. He was grateful for the information and shared some suggestions for how to improve the work. A considerable amount of time had passed since the election but due to various circumstances it had not been possible to arrange a meeting earlier.
Leeds, United Kingdom
September 5 -8, 2013