Building Hope in South Sudan
Q&A with Thomas Hedd
An Integral Disaster Response for South Sudan was launched on 3 Jan 2014, and since then Integral has facilitated a joint HQ teleconference, regular meetings of its Members’ South Sudan Country Directors and sent round email updates. Integral News asks Thomas Hedd, World Renew’s Country Director in South Sudan, some questions about his experience of the response …
From your perspective, what role did Integral play in this emergency response?
Bringing Christian people together. Integral Members came together for the first time in South Sudan, resulting in quality discussions. It has been a valuable opportunity to share concerns, compare notes and look for ways to cooperate.
At what stage in the emergency did you find Integral involvement most useful, and why?
Integral’s involvement was slightly late due to past inactivity, but once it got going it was very useful, and continues to be so - especially sharing experiences and information. Other alliances mobilised on 22nd December, one week after the rebellion started, when it became clear that the crisis would spread across the country; but actual collaboration in other alliances did not begin until early January. This crisis started just as people were winding down or travelling for Christmas, so delays in start-up were inevitable.
Has being an Integral Member affected your organisations response to this emergency?
Yes – it has helped us to be closer to other players. World Renew has not been positioned to collaborate on specific projects but sharing information and news has been useful and encouraging. Integral is made up of prayerful people and having discussions with other people of faith builds hope and provides encouragement.
What has worked well in this disaster response?
We are managing to meet or talk on Skype regularly with Members and there is a positive and collaborative atmosphere. The WASH group are working together on specific projects; components such as psycho-social support and media training are being shared. The discussions are inclusive. The short term potential is that as we continue we will all learn more from each other, and a team of Integral Members may soon implement some WASH programmes. In the longer term we should see more of the same, and perhaps more joint implementation, more sharing, and more saving in terms of cost and effort due to collaboration. South Sudan is a difficult, dangerous, and expensive place to work, so bringing us together has to be a good thing.
What has not worked so well in this DR?
Conditions in South Sudan do not allow us to meet face to face every 2 weeks, and that is damaging, but largely out of our hands at the moment. We are improvising with a mix of Skype and ‘real’ meetings, and even that has worked well. I expect more cooperation between Members will take place when we’re able to meet face to face.
What issues need to be tackled in order for benefits to be better felt?
Let’s make sure we carry on with Integral in South Sudan. Even if security conditions in Juba and the outlying areas make this difficult we must push on; if we carry on, good things will eventually happen. We must make sure we talk every 2 weeks, even if it’s just a Skype discussion, to maintain momentum. NGO field work tends to attract very independent minded, strong willed individuals, who don’t always collaborate well within teams, so perseverance is needed, and some gentle persuasion from the home country offices and from Integral at the global level. Fiona Boshoff’s, Integral’s Director, role in the chair helps keep us moving forward through gentle persuasion.
What impact has Integral had on your relationships with other Members in this crisis?
I only knew two Members of Integral before Christmas, but in the last few weeks I have started exchanging emails with an additional 3 Members, so that’s an improvement. I’m sure I’ll get to know others as we continue. The other major benefit is opening up new relationships with Integral staff and starting to understand a little about the global membership. Fellowship is a word often over-used, but I sense a feeling of fellowship emerging from our cooperation.
Any other feedback for us?
South Sudan is a difficult and expensive place to work and we need to work together for safety, economy and support. Let’s continue as an Integral family, develop our existing spirit of servanthood and good stewardship, using those, and our common bond through Jesus Christ to build effective cooperation. Working together is definitely the way of the future. I believe that lone rangers will become dinosaurs. We do not have to merge NGOs, but we do need to work together, share skills, share experiences, pool resources, and communicate information. Psalm 133 tells us that God loves unity and harmony.