Vermont medical mission visits South Sudan

February 5, 2013
Martha Holden and Dr. Deborah Jerard with The Mother's Union St John's Episcopal Church, Akobo, South Sudan. Photo/Pastor Steven

Martha Holden and Dr. Deborah Jerard with The Mother’s Union St John’s Episcopal Church, Akobo, South Sudan. Photo/Pastor Steven

[Episcopal News Service] On Jan 20, I and Martha Holden, of Christ Episcopal Church, Montpelier, Vermont, flew to Akobo, South Sudan, on invitation from the Mother’s Union of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Akobo. We were greeted with songs, praises of Hallelujah, a foot washing that felt wonderful in the 100 degree heat, and many hugs from the mothers. What a wonderful welcome!

The Mother’s Union had made known their need for improved health care and a desire for a medical clinic six years previously when Martha, a religious solitary, had visited the village shortly after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.

Upon her return to the United States the Sudan Communion Prayer Group was formed. I am a pediatrician practicing in Montpelier, and after praying with the group I felt called to join the effort to bring the mother’s knowledge of how to improve their health care.  Over the course of the seven days in Akobo, I  taught 10 members of the Mother’s Union about basic hygiene, nutrition, newborn care, safe delivery practices, how to make oral hydration solution, basic first aid, and many other ideas that will helpfully improve the overall state of health of the people of Akobo.

In addition to some basic medical supplies a computer with a solar panel and battery pack was left with the Mother’s Union to continue to train other women. On the computer were several health training videos including “The Story of Cholera” an award winning video about the transmission of cholera. In addition to training videos the hope is that the computer can be used as a means of fund raising for the Mother’s Union to continue their dream of eventually having a clinic in the church compound. Ideas of using the computer included opening an internet café in town, printing out documents for people or using the battery pack as a charging station.

With the money raised it may be possible to send a member of the community to nursing school or to get additional training that will be useful to their ideas of a future clinic. While the physical conditions were quite harsh in Akobo the spiritual conditions were great with the presence of the Holy Spirit evident all around us in the form of the wonderful hospitality and generosity of the Nuer people.  Surely God is great!

For more information on this project or to get involved, visit

– Dr. Deborah Jerard is a pediatrician and a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier, Vermont.

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