Although there is so much beauty in the world, unfortunately, there is also a great deal of senseless evil.
Nobody knows that to be true more than Jacob Atem. Born in a small village in South Sudan, Jacob lost his parents and the life he had come to know after the Northern Sudanese Arab Militia took everything away from him. Once considered a “Lost Boy” of Sudan, he now leads a life filled with love, education and service. He has used his unique experience and platform to help rebuild his home in Sudan by providing health care and hope to where it is lost.
“I haven’t forgotten the people of Sudan, and I will do what I can to help them heal,” Atem said.
What is SSHCO?
It is The Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization. I built it with Lual Dang Awan and our vision is to bring health and hope to where it was lost.
How does SSHCO operate?
SSHCO is a non-profit, which operates strictly through volunteers. Through the help of these volunteers and numerous generous donations, a health clinic was able to be built in Maar. Individuals all around the world help make this clinic operable, from Sudan, Egypt, or even the United States. The health clinic provides new levels of health care to the people of Maar and the surrounding area for the first time. It costs as little as $5 for visit
How can people get involved with SSHCO?
People can get involved simply by telling a friend, which spreads our mission. It lets individuals around you know about SSHCO and they can help transform healthcare in South Sudan. Another way is by organizing an event. This can be done through companies, schools, or even neighborhoods across the nation. One of the easiest ways to get involved is through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
What are your goals for SSHCO?
There is no one goal for SSHCO. When a goal is met, there will be something else to strive for. There will always be work to be done. I guess my goals are to do the work, to bring back hope, to give the children of Sudan what I did not have. You know, the problems are deeply rooted into the culture. There is not a lot of hope for people there. I want to return some of that hope. It has been taken away by these evil forces, and we can bring some back. It will not solve the whole problem but it may solve one part of it. I guess that is the goal, just to give help and hope.
What are some of the biggest obstacles for SSHCO?
The better question might be what aren’t the obstacles. It’s difficult when the issues are happening so far away, people struggle to really understand. It’s like out of sight, out of mind. The reality is we need money to do what we set out to do. Money is not easy to come by. People who learn of these struggles and hear the stories are willing, but often times don’t have the resources. I try to share my story as much as I can so that more people in the United States can learn of the realities children, men and woman face in other areas of the world. It is not a pleasant reality, but it is real. It’s hard, you see, to revisit these memories so frequently, but I have learned to speak about my experiences to benefit others. The biggest struggle may be the distance to Sudan, and the severe danger that exists there.
What is the reason for conflict in Sudan?
South Sudan is the worlds newest country but war has diseased the country for decades. Sudan is hundreds of years behind other established countries. The fighting, in my perspective, is senseless. The reason for it is greed, corruption and hatred.
Do you believe peace can be accomplished?
I believe in peace, but I don’t think we have seen it in this world yet. It’s something we have been striving for, as a global community, since the beginning of time. Humans use same methods and practices and ways of doing things even though they claim to have learned. War doesn’t work. Hatred doesn’t work. Greed doesn’t work. Violence doesn’t work. Peace will be accomplished when the global community comes to understand that, and when people change.
When did education become so important to you?
Education was something I never knew until I made it to America. It was a rare possibility for kids in Southern Sudan. Education is one of the rarest and most valuable resources in the world. My fight has always been to have more. Money, power, oil – what all of these wars are waged over, it is not important. Education gives me hope and understanding. It gives me a purpose.
Was the transition to American school a challenging one?
It was difficult. Language barriers were tall standing, and I brought with me the dark memories of Sudan. But I had a wonderful family who helped ease that transition.
What do you plan to achieve next?
I hope to raise children of the world, who will bring us one step closer to peace. That’s what I hope to achieve.