From Sudan to Selma

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2006

Make Way Partners seeks community’s help

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

Fact: There are at least 30 million victims of human trafficking and modern day slavery in the world today.

Five years ago, Kimberly Smith would have assumed this fact was fiction. She knows better now.

Smith is executive director of Make Way Partners, a Birmingham-based Christian mission agency “committed to preventing and combating human trafficking and the sex-slave trade by educating and mobilizing the body of Christ.”

Last month, Smith returned from a seven-week mission trip to Southern Sudan, the poorest nation in the world with the highest per capita rate of victims of human trafficking and enslavement.

On Friday, Smith shared her experiences with Dr. David Hodo, a Selma psychiatrist and host of the WBFZ 105.3 radio show, “Black Belt Matters.” She also conversed with residents at Wallace Community College Selma.

Five decades of war have stripped the Southern Sudanese of life’s everyday conveniences – food, water and transportation.

The Arabic-Muslims of Northern Sudan have seized control of half the country and seeks to Islamize Southern Sudan, home to the black-African indigenous people – a people who are of Christian faith.

When Southern Sudanese deny the Muslim faith, they are murdered or enslaved. Women and children have been through the most traumatizing of human experiences – rapes and genital mutilations.

Although most Southern Sudanese describe themselves as Christians, they don’t own Bibles and don’t fully understand what it means to be a Christian, Smith said.

Despite the many indignities they endure, the Southern Sudanese remain optimistic.

“They have suffered greatly, but they still smile and are joyful,” Smith said.

The orphans of Southern Sudan have even more reason to smile since the arrival of Make Way Partners. The agency has built an orphan compound in the village of Nyamlel. The indigenously-run compound houses 10 school buildings, a medical clinic and a church.

The agency hopes to raise $300,000 to build dormitories for the 303 orphans they care for and upgrade its medical clinic – a cost of $100,000.

The agency also seeks to drill five wells in the Sahara Desert for a clean water supply. Each well costs $10,000.

A daily food program consisting of sorghum, wheat, corn and porridge has been implemented.

The food is delivered from outside countries since there is no local food economy. Smith said the agency recently introduced goat meat into the diet – a special request of the orphans.

“This is the first meat many of the children have ever had,” she said.

It takes $11,000 a month to maintain the orphan compound. Many times the agency has turned orphans away due to funding.

Smith wants to raise the level awareness among Americans about the situation in Sudan – a topic that is rarely addressed by the government or the media, she says.

“Slavery still exists,” Smith said. “Slavery is alive and thriving in the U.S. and all over the world. It’s up to us to stop it. We need you to help us get the word out.”

Smith plans to speak to area churches about the work of Make Way Partners in the coming months. Hodo, who learned of Make Way Partners in a newspaper article a few years ago, said Selma shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the people of Sudan.

“You have to care for your neighbor even if they’re thousands of miles away,” he said.

For more information about Make Way Partners, visit its Web site at www.makewaypartners.com or call (205) 240-8597