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Offering a hand in Sudan: Lisa Deeley Smith ’77

After taking in a refugee herself, Lisa Deeley Smith ’77 is helping find resources and teachers to help aid worn-torn nation.

Offering a hand in Sudan: Lisa Deeley Smith ’77

Lisa Deeley Smith ’77 is returning to Sudan to help with international banking and meet local leaders.

Offering a hand in Sudan: Lisa Deeley Smith ’77

After taking in a refugee herself, Lisa Deeley Smith ’77 is helping find resources and teachers to help aid worn-torn nation.

In 2002, Lisa Deeley Smith ’77 was a church secretary putting up a notice on a Boston-area church bulletin board asking people to provide foster homes for some of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

“At first I thought, ‘Who would do this? Who would let those guys, who have been through God knows what, into their home?’ ”

The Lost Boys, as they became known to aid organizations, were the more than 27,000 boys orphaned or displaced by the Second Sudanese War, which lasted from 1983 until 2005. Some 4,000 were taken in by families in the United States.

Despite her reservations, Smith went to the meeting, then answered her own question: “I will. I will take one of these boys into my home.” Seven years later, her Sudanese foster son still lives with her family in their home outside Boston.

But that was only the beginning of Smith’s involvement with Sudan: As a board member for the aid organization Village Help for South Sudan, Smith is now helping the people in Wunlang, a remote village of about 400 families that some of the Lost Boys came from.

The group’s first task: Dig a well. “We had funds collected to build a school but you can’t make bricks without water, and they didn’t have a well,” Smith said. The now-completed school has four classroom blocks, a teacher’s office with a storeroom attached and three latrines. Today it educates nearly 500 students who come from a score of surrounding villages. It is staffed by teachers from the village’s former “school under a tree.” A second school is being planned.

Village Help for South Sudan, organized in 2006, only has a handful of volunteers, but they’ve accomplished plenty — next on their list is a clinic (the bricks are already made) that will provide triage, first aid and transportation to a doctor’s office (a day-and-a-half walk away) and the nearest hospital, which is a two-hour drive away (on a good day).

The group is also helping other aid groups, training them how to run a project and advising them on the challenges of working in remote areas.

“We also have two Lost Boys who went to college and are now program directors with us,” she said. “They are there now, helping neighboring villages.”

Smith, who is a substitute teacher and works at a shop that sells fair-trade, ethnic merchandise, has visited the region once and plans to do so again this year. While there, she will to scout out sources of building materials, assess and train teachers, help with international banking and meet local leaders.

Contact Lisa Deeley Smith at lisa.deeleysmith@villagehelpforsouthsudan.org.

On the Web:
villagehelpforsouthsudan.org
Village Help’s weblog

From our archives:
Winter 2001: Five Lost Boys who found a home at TCU