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HomeIssue 8Food, dancing to raise money for the elderly central South Sudan

Food, dancing to raise money for the elderly central South Sudan

By JULIUS DENNIS

Mary Maker, an Alice Springs resident, is doing her best to make a difference in her home city of Rumbek in central South Sudan.

“We’ve been in constant turmoil, like we used to be in 21 years of war, and then we gained independence,” she says, preparing a fundraising function in the Bath Street Catholic School this evening.

“Then around 2013 another internal war broke out, and that has continued up to now, and it has really made life difficult for people, because there’s no security in the country.

“Due to that, there have also been a lot of conflicts within the communities which we feel like it’s the failure of the leadership.”

Mary (pictured) says that Rumbek, a place known for its big families and connectivity, has become the centre of the current conflict, a place where the children and the elderly can slip through the cracks.

“For me, what I’m doing basically is about what is happening in my hometown, is to help where I can.

“So what I’ve been doing for the last two years 2019 and 2020 is to just do whatever I can within my reach.”

In 2019 Mary helped street kids in her home city with food and a one off meal.

Last year, she bought 47 elderly people in Rumbek some essential items and a long robe that is the traditional clothing of the elderly. 

Previously Mary did this work on her own dime, which she earns as a youth support worker.

Mary hopes to continue this work through her new organisation, the Nyier Foundation.

 “I feel like it’s something that should continue because when I served about 47 elders last year where we bought a tin of powdered milk, tea bags and sugar.”

The foundation gets its name from Mary’s deceased brother, who died in a hit and run incident in 2013 in Perth.

“He was a great man, he was a community minded person he loved things like what I’m doing now,” she says.

“He would always support and contribute to whatever functions in the community. So I just wanted to honour him and, you know, use this as a legacy for him.”

The event at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart campus on Bath Street is starting at 6:30pm today.

There will be hot food, music and speakers. There will be no entry fee and the food will be free. 

Mary says that South Sudanese fundraising tactics are a little different to the western type we might be used to in Alice Springs: “For us it’s quite different. On the night we will have food, but it’s not to be sold, it’s for us to welcome people and to make people feel at home and get refreshed, you know, throughout the night, so we’re not selling anything.

“People just come in, and if you have something you give it. The only way we do generate money is to do some dancing.

“People dance in a circle and maybe when somebody’s speaking, someone will come and say so-and-so will not speak before I put something on the table. That is kind of to show, you know, the value of the person in the community.”

There will be a mix of food on offer for a range of dietary requirements, but Mary says Kombo, a mixture of meat, peanut butter, spinach and okra, will be the main dish.

Also on offer will be Akop, a traditional Nuer dish similar to couscous served with meat and spinach.

Mary says that via her word of mouth campaign she hopes to have the support of both the Dinka and Nuer, the largest population groups, communities in Alice Springs through the church she attends as well as at a few other places of worship around town.

It is from these communities that she hopes to have between 50 and 80 people attending tonight.

“Quite a number of people have said that they will come out if they’re not working, and some people have said if they can’t make it on the night of the ninth, they will still contribute online.”

It’s not just from the South Sudanese community of Alice Springs that Mary is appealing to: “I am appealing to the Alice Springs wider community to support my charity in any way, in any capacity.”

And it’s not only money that’s needed either: “Anything from pads to wheelchairs, beds, commodes, walking frames, first aid kits and even transportation vehicles,” would be great to send across to old people in Rumbek.

Although this is the first fundraising event for the foundation, Mary has lofty goals: “What I’m doing at the moment which is providing basic things like food or, you know, clothing, there is a much higher need. For example, there are elders who are homeless.”

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