Through the blessed friendships of our African friends, ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa had been introduced into three countries on the African Continent. Egypt, Southern Sudan and Southern Uganda have all been the scene of precious miracles due to the generosity of so many who have joined our efforts. May God bless all those who enable us to continue our Reaching Out 2 Africa.
Click on the links below to read about ROTA's Third World Connections
Click on a link below to read about ROTA's efforts in Southern Sudan.
I t was just last year that the HOPE FUND from St. Vincent de Paul Parish enabled ROTA to purchase a forty foot shipping container which began another phase of the Koiyom Clinic project. Thanks to generous donations of our ROTA 365 members, our Medical Supplies Subcommittee attended auctions, purchased much
needed equipment at drastically reduced prices, received donations of mechanical beds, office equipment donations as well as a variety of medical supply donations. Local area hotels and motels donated gently used linens. Thank you to students from D'Youville College who assisted us in sorting, refolding and packing the many pounds of linens that we were able to add to our supplies. There was still more room available and so we initiated a “summer clothing” drive that collected usable clothing for the many people of the village of Koiyom. The youth from St. Martin de Porres kicked in and assisted in sorting and repackaging the clothing which was then used to assist in packing and stabilizing the shipping container load. With the container all packed it began its multiple stop journey to its final destination. From St. Martin de Porres it was returned to “Room For Rent” who initiated the first steps in the shipping process; moving the container safely to a NJ port. Marine Transport Logistics took over from there and assisted in loading and transporting it across the Atlantic to Mombasa Port in Kenya. Special thanks again to St. Vincent de Paul Parish HOPE FUND that paid the “over the Atlantic” transport costs for the journey. Arriving in Kenya, our ROTA Container is met by Horn of Africa Transporters who will receive the container and carry it across land through Kenya, Uganda and into Southern Sudan to it‟s final destination in the Village of Koiyom north of the town of Aweil. A special “Thank You” goes out to each and everyone who contributed to ROTA in the Summer Mission Cooperative Appeal. This year our participating congregations included: St. Leo the Great, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, St. Gabriel, and St. Gregory the Great. Your support helped us complete this long awaited journey for these medical supplies and equipment.Former “Lost Boy” of Sudan, Fidele Dhan will travel back in December in order to complete the paper work so that our transporters will have no difficulty at the border of Uganda and South Sudan. It will be at that point that we will then turn the project over to the Chief and Village of Koiyom. Many of the AID agencies currently working in the medical field in the area of our clinic building will not work in connection with a USA NGO: Non Government Organization like ROTA. Our best future hope for the clinic is to have the Village Chief, Diing Diing Dhan, seated, second from the left, negotiate on behalf of the village and its needs to organizations like “Doctors Without Borders” which already are in the Town of Awil assisting the people. Fidele will also be traveling with a building plaque which will dedicate portions of the com-pleted structure in memory of our very good friends, the late Fr. Gary Bagley and Sr. Karen Klimczak. This whole project began through the energy of the youth of the Diocese of Buffalo who heard former “Lost Boy” of Sudan Fidele Diing Dhan's story and desire and jumped on board to make his dream a reality. In their enthusiasm, they collected the initial funds that allowed us to break ground and begin this massive project. We pray that the Village Chief will be guided by the miraculous hand of our Lord who was able to bring us this far in such a massive undertaking. St. Josephine Bakhita, assist our friends in Koiyom Village, South Sudan.
BY FR. RON SAJDAK
A s our international projects continue to grow in number our concern began to grow as well. How will we be able to maintain and support our current projects as well as continue to be open to new locations and new projects that present themselves? We began to be aware that the charitable donations we’ve been collecting just won’t sustain the volume and costs of maintaining our international projects.
Our ministry needed other sources of financial support as well as those most generous donations from so many of our most faithful benefactors. In November 2011, we formed the ROTA Development Group Inc., which will function as our non-for-profit 501(c3) entity that will be able to receive grant funding to help assist us in maintaining and continuing our African Outreach. This has been a real learning process for each of us. After the official Incorporation Papers arrived they needed to be certified by the Department of State of New York. They then had to be sent to the United States Department of State to have our country’s Secretary of State sign them as well. Once signed they needed to be presented to the South Sudanese Embassy, a fee needed to be paid and then they needed to be stamped by a South Sudanese Official First Secretary. In January 2013, former “Lost Boy of Sudan,”FideleDiingDhan, Executive Director of the Corporation, traveled to Juba to present our official documents to the South Sudanese authorities so that ROTA Development Group, Inc. can be recognized as an official NGO: Non-Governmental Organization that will have permission to take on projects within the country. Once recognized, we will be able to open a bank account within and international bank in South Sudan allowing us to more easily move money into the country to sustain and continue to expand our projects.
An additional piece of business yet to be accomplished would include getting registered and approve to open the Medical Clinic within the Village of Koiyom. Several pieces of support have to converge at the same time to open the clinic for healthcare for the people who need it the most. We need to identify the medical professional(s) who will work for us within the clinic. At the start they will be invited to live within the structure as part of their salary. Second we need to purchase and ship to the clinic both the medical equipment we’ll need to start along with the medical supplies and medicines. All these steps need to be carried out in a coordinated fashion so that the equipment and/or medicines don’t end up in the wrong hands or dissipated indiscreetly. We pray that Fidele’s current trip back to South Sudan is successful and that we’ll be able to move ahead to open the Koiyom Medical Clinic soon.
We are happy to report that in January 2013 FideleDiingDhan has returned home and has presented us with the official approval certificate of the ROTA Development Group, Inc. which now is officially recognized as an NGO: Non-Governmental Organization in South Sudan.
Thank you to our team for working so hard on this significant accomplishment
BY FR. RON SAJDAK
In July 2012, the country of South Sudan celebrated its first year of Independence. Speaking to our Africa Project Coordinator, former “Lost Boy” FideleDiingDhan, he told us that trying to acquire lodging within the capital city of Juba for weeks before this monumental celebration is most difficult. Fidele arrived in Juba, South Sudan a few weeks before on business for his family and for ROTA as well. Though the country is still overjoyed at its successful acquisition of independence the development of government led infrastructure for the new republic has been a long and slow process. The largest employer in the whole country has been the government. Most of the tribal peoples are skilled at survival but not as employees of businesses. However roads are being built and the major cities of Juba and Wau are seeing more investment and development from other countries. Battles still rage with North Sudan over border disputes and of course oil ownership. This rather slow progress of infrastructure growth slows even greater when you observe the outlying villages. Koiyom is a small village on the northwestern part of this new nation. It is about two hours by car from the largest town of Aweil. Over the years we have been able to make definite progress on the medical clinic project. Most of the skilled labor and materials required more funds due to this lack of country based infrastructures.
· Phase 1: In late 2009, ROTA invested $12,000 for the installation of a water well. This continues to be the only source of clean water for the whole village to date.
· Phase 2: In 2010-2011, ROTA invested $86,480 in the actual building of the medical clinic. This was a slow process of funding procurement and investment; piece by piece. However the physical medical clinic building is completed.
· Phase 3: During 2011, $7,182 was invested into the building and installation of a septic tank system, three pit toilets and two shower stalls.
· Phase 4: Yet to be accomplished would be the installation of a power generator, internal wiring, solar back up capabilities, additional water sources requiring $38,635.
· Phase 5: Furnishing, medical supplies and medicines would require an additional $21,700.
· Phase 6: Basic staff remuneration and operational costs projected for the first year of operation: $31,440.
Though the tasks appear to be monumental, we look at all we’ve been able to accomplish thus far and we are confident in God’s providential hand. For we can “do all things in Christ who strengthens us” Philippians 4:13.
BY FR. RON SAJDAK
IIn April 2012 it will have been three years since we broke ground in building the Fr. Gary Bagley, Sr. Karen Klimczak, Koiyom Medical Clinic. The start of the clinic project was marked by the digging of a water well that would provide much needed water for the building process. This turned out to be a double blessing: helping make the cement for the building process but also providing a second source of clean and safe drinking water for village residents. One of our local architects helped design the floor plan for the clinic and that was e-mailed to the town and made its way to the village. Contractors and builders were hired from neighboring locations, bricks were purchased locally and the building process began in earnest. What began came to a halt for a brief period as more funding was needed to complete the project.
Unlike building projects in the states, many building projects in Africa can be seen in different stages of completion. When more funds become available, more work can continue. That is what happened when the building sat for a few months without a roof overhead. Materials that were purchased waited for additional funding to enable the builders to continue. Another lesson was learned quickly. Local residents of villages do not always know how to negotiate deals with city dwellers for materials and services rendered. This lesson now being learned, ROTA began flying our project manager, former "Lost Boy" Fidele Diing Dhan back and forth to the Sudan. In a short amount of time, because of his exposure to western economic influences and purchasing savvy, we were able to accomplish much more in very little time than we were able with just our local village team working independently. This led to the finishing of the clinic roof and the beginning of securing materials for the building of the pit toilets, septic tank and shower stalls, the finishing interior and exterior of the clinic building, and the painting of the structure.
Through the generosity of people of the Church in Buffalo, especially through half of the spring missionary appeal funding from Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Blessed John the XXIII, and Sts. Columba Brigid parishes, along with funding from the HOPE FUND from St. Martin of Tours and St. Thomas Aquinas parishes in South Buffalo, continuing support from St. Benedict Parish and a special Christmas gifting allocation from an anonymous supporter, we hope to initiate the final stages of the building project which include: finish drilling another water well near the new pit toilets and clinic building; install an above ground tank, solar powered water pump and the plumbing necessary to provide running water for the showers and for clinic use. If funds are available, we also hope to have enough to repair the first well in the village that the Northern government dismantled with promises of a better water system. This repair will ensure village stability. Currently, our one well near the clinic site is the only site for clean water. Many thanks for your continued support of this project which "Soon and Very Soon" We Pray We'll be Completed.
BY FR. RON SAJDAK
On Saturday, July 9 , 2010 I turned on the international satellite channel to view the historic event: the birth of a new nation. I tuned in to a live feed from Juba, Southern Sudan as the Sudan flag was being lowered. The new flag of the Republic of South Sudan was raised, the new National Anthem was sung, the constitution of the new nation was signed and ratified, the president took the oath of office, and the new nation was born. Having the privilege to witness the live action from South Sudan's new Capital City was a real gift to me. Along with those in the televised crowd, my eyes filled and still fill with tears of joy as I witnessed the birth of a nation that so many have died for over so many years. Realizingthat so many of our new friends in Buffalo; those who fled so many years ago under such fear, now raise their heads in pride. The world watched last January 9th as millions of registered Southern Sudanese turned out to vote in the historic Referendum Election that decided on the separation of the South from the Northern portions of the Sudan. Now the dream became a reality.
At midday I had the opportunity to speak to Fidele Diing Dhan, who has been living in the town of Aweil while working on the clinic of Koiyom Village. He too said that the celebration in cities, towns and villages all through South Sudan were at fever pitch.
Later on July 9 , I led prayer for those of Buffalo, NY gathered at their main church home of Holy Cross. After the
prayer we blessed the flag that was then was raised for the first time in Buffalo, NY. The children, a new generation of American Sudanese, wearing T-Shirts branded with the new nation's flag, sang with joy the new nation's National Anthem. Amid food and festivity the community celebrated with joy the birth of their long awaited dream. Abuna, Msgr. David Gallivan, Pastor of Holy Cross led the blessing for the sharing of food in which he thanked God for these our new neighbors who have enriched the city of Buffalo by their presence and long suffering. God's blessing to all our Sudanese neighbors here. God's blessings to all their families back home. God's blessings to all our Sudanese priests and bishops who have worked so tirelessly for this day of accomplishment. May God help this new nation unite and prosper as the newest; the fifty-fifth nation on the continent of Africa.
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
As soon as the last exam was complete, former “Lost Boy” Fidele Diing Dhan departed Buffalo headed to Kampala Uganda first to spend time with his immediate family. He had relocated them there so that his younger siblings could attend school. After a brief week to recover from the jet lag, just before Christmas, he made his way into Sudan and the Village of Koiyom. Because of the upcoming Referendum Vote that was to take place January 9th, buying supplies was more difficult than usual. While there he was able to supervise the completion of the roof project for the clinic, finishing with cement both the interior and exterior walls, as well as making provisions for the laying the foundation for the veranda porch. Unlike in this country where we hire a developer who hires the subcontractors who purchase all the supplies needed to complete the job, all the business in the Sudan tends to be al-a-cart. Going into the town of Aweil, Fidele needed to purchase additional cement and additional sand. Having purchased the products needed the next step was securing a means to transport the goods back to the village and of course each and every step requires good negotiation skills in order to be cost effective. The final purchases included timbers and supplies that would be used to dig, line, and finish the septic tank system as well as the six pit toilets and six shower stalls that will be for both the staff and the patients of the clinic. It is our hope that we will be able to finance another well and above ground water tank that will enable the toilets, septic system and showers to work. Many thanks to Fidele who in two weeks accomplished much more than our village team seems to do in many months. Many thanks to St. Jude/Sardinia Confirmation Class, St. Benedict Parish Community, and many of you our new benefactors who continue to make these miracles possible.
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
Many thanks to Gary Bichler and R&P Oak Hill Development, for their generous contribution that allowed former “Lost Boy” Fidele Dhan to answer a request by many youth of his hometown of Koiyom, Southern Sudan. While traveling back home for a ground breaking ceremony for the new medical clinic in April of 2009, a group of youth approach he and Fr. Ron with a hand written request for their soccer team. Though we could not fulfill all of what they wanted, our friends at R&P Oak Hill responded with a show of support and enabled Fidele to have soccer uniforms made here in Buffalo. He carried them with him to Sudan when he returned home last summer and they were presented to the team through a public gathering with the Southern Sudan Minister of Sport. While back in the village this past December and January, Fidele caught up with the team who posed for photos with their new uniforms. Fidele commented that “though they have had the uniforms and have used them for a few months they still look as good as new.” Many thanks to Gary Bichler and our friends at R&P Oak Hill for their support of youth half way around the world. They and we will never forget your generosity.
This past summer, Fidele Dhan was able to return to visit family members temporarily relocated in southern Uganda. While there he made his way north to his Village of Koiyom in Southern Sudan. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “The clinic building is really large containing what will be examining rooms, a room for a pharmacy, a room for a laboratory, larger rooms for people to remain while healing, and even a room for a store.” While in the village Fidele became aware of some of the difficulties that we have been experiencing with this project. Many of the men who were on the original building committee have taken jobs with the government and thus left the committee. Some of the others remaining didn’t have the skills to bargain well with distributors so as to get more for one’s money. Because of some of these difficulties our project is not yet complete. In a short amount of time Fidele arranged for the purchase of materials that the project will need to complete the roofing, the windows, doors, and finish the walls on the interior of the structure. He also met with the contractors who are doing the work and gave them further instructions. In his report to our Advisory Board, Fidele stressed the need to complete the building project soon in order to move to our second stage, equipping the clinic, as well as the third stage of staffing and making the clinic operational. May God truly “give success to the work of our hands”….Psalm 90.
It is hard to imagine but it was already fourteen months ago that former “Lost Boy” Fidele Diing Dhan guided me on my first journey to his homeland, the Village of Koiyom, in Southern Sudan. It seems like only yesterday that our hands were joined together with those of the Koiyom Village Chief, Gabriel Dut our Village Coordinator and others to scrape the ground that would usher in a new sign of hope for people in such a remote part of the world.
Many contributors have added their hands to that hoe and many sacrifices were made in order that hope may spring forth for the people of Koiyom Village in Southern Sudan.
The first sign of hope was the necessity for more sources of clean water. The building project could not proceed, especially during the long dry season without the benefit of the main ingredient for building and for life……water. Fr. Angelo Agany Deng, parish priest and pastor of St. George parish in the town of Aweil, shared the excitement of this new development with us when he visited the US for the first time in December 2009. He brought with him exciting stories of how the people of the village are so grateful to have yet another source of clean water nearby. “Even the animals come and drink of the water that may spill from the well” he told us.
When St. Martin de Porres parishioner, Mr. Lual Dut was returning home, as well as another gentleman from the Buffalo area, we encouraged them to visit the village for us and help share with us how the construction is proceeding. The photos speak for themselves and give us great encouragement that our medical clinic project will soon have completed its first stage: the Brick and Mortar building.
We are so very grateful to St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo NY, and Mr. Jack Courtney, and the Rotary Club of Chevy Chase, MD for their significant contributions enabling ROTA to install the clean drinking water well at the Koiyom Clinic Site. Many thanks to all our contributors who have enabled us to move so very far along towards our goal. The completion of stage one is within reach…..about $50,000 USD to go!!! God bless you all!
Members of the ROTA Advisory Board and friends gathered on Wednesday, June 23rd for some time of greeting and updates on the clinic progress. Present were Fr. Angelo Agany Deng, Pastor of St. George Parish in Aweil, Diocese of Wau, Southern Sudan and Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi, Coordinator of Catholic Health Care for the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda. It was a great opportunity to meet these two priests whom ROTA is supporting in a variety of ways. Shared with all were photos of the Medical Clinic Building project in Koiyom Village, Sudan. In attendance at the gathering was Fr. Tom Quinlivan, Pastor of Queen of Heaven Parish in West Seneca, NY. He surprised us by sharing that the Board of Trustees of St. Catherine of Siena, a parish recently closed and merged with Queen of Heaven, voted to tithe off the profit made from sale of their church property and donate some of their proceeds to ROTA for our ministries. In honor of St. Catherine of Siena, and in memory of a parish congregation dedicated to Justice & Peace, a check of $15,000 was presented to the Reaching Out 2 Africa ministry. God has truly blessed us!!!
Last year the faculty, staff and students of Queen of Heaven Parish School in West Seneca adopted Reaching Out 2 Africa for a year of outreach activities. After collecting winter gloves, mittens, scarves, personal care items, as well as organizing and equipping a holiday party for new refugee families here in Buffalo, the school held a final activity: A Walk-A-Thon to benefit the Koiyom Medical Clinic. Former “Lost Boy of Sudan” Fidele Diing Dhan joined members of the whole school community as they walked around their school property five times. The event raised well over $2,500 toward the clinic building project. Many thanks to the Pastor, Principal, Faculty, Staff and especially students and their parents for the dedicated work and commitment to all the year’s projects with ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa.
On Sunday, December 6th, 2009, Gregory Kay and Robert Ludwig, standing at the left and right of Fidele respectively, represented the outreach ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in the presentation of a check for $6,000 to Fidele Diing Dhan and some members of the ROTA Board. The money is to be dedicated for a fresh water well at the clinic site. This comes at a vary advantageous time in that the dry season has just begun and any building project will require plenty of water; not to mention the tremendous need of additional sources of fresh water for the people of the Village. Many thanks to our new friends at St. Paul Cathedral. May God truly bring to completion the fine work that He has begun through your gift.
This past December, Christine Sullivan and “Buffalo For Africa” invited us to have a table at their school district’s “Family Fun Days.” Our Executive Director, Mrs. Joan Ersing was out early with a full display table and plenty of our materials to share our mission. “Lost Boy” Fidele Diing Dhan and Fr. Ron made an appearance later. The young people had collected a large quantity of household goods and gifts that we would be able to share with area refugee families. Many thanks to all our young supporters in the Hamburg and Frontier School Systems.
This past spring, freelance writer, Charlotte Hsu wrote an article entitled “Lost and Found Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ and East Side Priest Forge Unlikely Friendship.” The article was picked up by ART VOICE and became the cover story of the August 27th, 2009 edition. We received so much positive feedback from it that when Fidele and Fr. Ron visited Anchor Bar in Buffalo for some Buffalo Wings, executive chief and host, Ivano Toscani saw them, he grabbed a copy of the Art Voice paper and had Fidele and Fr. Ron sign the article so he could put it up on the wall. If you are ever looking for it, it’s on the left side wall in the hallway going toward the kitchen just after the ladies’ room. Thanks Ivano! You’re the greatest! Pictured above is Ivano Toscani pointing to the mounted article along with Fidele Dhan on left and new “Lost Boy” in Buffalo, Mathon Noi.
By Patrick J. Buechi
Staff Reporter, Western New York Catholic Newspaper
This article appeared in the July 2009 Issue of the WNY Catholic
For some it was a beginning. For others an ending. For Father Ronald Sajdak and Fidele Diing Dhan breaking ground for a medical clinic in Sudan was just another step in a long and winding journey.
The day after Easter, Father Sajdak, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo, and Dhan, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, began the next step in a now two-year project by the St. Martin de Porres Parish-based organization Reaching Out 2 Africa to build a medical clinic in Koiyom, Sudan, to combat cholera, tuberculosis and AIDS. One-third of the estimated $95,000 building cost was raised in the Diocese of Buffalo through the efforts of a group of 50 teenagers who engineered the Pickle Jar Project. By collecting money and holding benefits, the teens raised $35,000.
On April 19, Father Sajdak and Dhan traveled to Sudan to officially break ground for the clinic. Their faces were welcome sights as the plans for the facility were coming slower than the people of Koiyom expected.
“They were so thrilled someone from America came,” Father Sajdak said. Last year Dhan brought their plans to the village elders, who were hesitant to believe him as things were taking such a long time. “They were questioning if this was just an idea he wanted to have or if it is true that this is going to happen. They said in their speeches, ‘Father, now that we have met you, you have come so far into a place you do not know in order to give us assurance that Fidele is not alone, that the people of the Church of Buffalo are working with him to make this happen, we feel a great degree of peace.’”
The building of the clinic will be a three-phase project to begin at the end of Sudan’s rainy season, around November. Phase one will be the building of two wells, one for the village and one for the clinic itself.
“This trip made us realize that there are a number of things that need to happen. Number one – clean water in the village and clean water at the clinic site,” Father Sajdak said. “Clean water will eliminate a lot of medical problems even before a clinic is built.”
Phase 2 will be the construction of the clinic itself. Father Sajdak received some critiques on clinic models from representatives of the Health Training Institute of Wau, necessitating a redesign of the clinic building plans. The clinic will house examination rooms, a pharmacy, a labor and delivery room, and possibly an isolation unit. A kitchen area will be built as a separate building since cooking takes place on an open flame.
Phase 3 would be a dormitory space to temporarily house patients who cannot leave the clinic immediately.
“Transportation is not like here,” Father Sajdak said. “You do not leave the doctor and go home. If you live in Koiyom, that’s fine, but Koiyom is not the only village there. Once there is medical assistance, people will come from all these surrounding villages, and they will walk for two days to get help. You can’t just send them home walking two days back.”
Father Sajdak told the eight-member committee that will oversee the clinic, about the desires of the young people of Buffalo to name the clinic, or part, in honor of the late Father Gary Bagley and the late Sister Karen Klimczak, SSJ, both of whom shaped and affected the youth in Buffalo.
“They said absolutely; anything they want, they get.”
Koiyom is a small village in southern Sudan. It is the former home of Dhan, who fled during a civil war between northern and southern Sudan over mineral rights. Dhan supports 15 members of his family who are still in Africa. The village does not have a church, but catechists teach the faith every Sunday in a gathering space. The villagers see a priest only once every six months. They were surprised to see Father Sajdak use holy water to bless the ground where the clinic will rest since that is a task typically done by a local elder, called a spear master.
The groundbreaking turned out to be much different than those usually seen in the States as well. Father Sajdak first tried to crack the arid soil with a heavy garden hoe.
“That thing nearly hit me in the face. It bounced right off the ground. The ground was solid as a rock. So the groundbreaking turned into a ground scraping,” he said.
The chief of the village joined, as did a guest chief from a nearby village, and Dhan, then Gabriel Dut Deng, head of the committee for the clinic, followed. Deng gathered all the ground scrapers, had them all hold the hoe and scrape together as a show of unity.
Although half a world away, the teens who helped fund the clinic were not so far from the thoughts of Father Sajdak.
“Before I left I was with the Young Christians at Work again for a penance service. Patty Bubar Spear mentioned that I was going to Africa, and they prayed over me asking God’s blessing of safety in travel,” Father Sajdak said. “Michael Powell, who had been with the Pickle Jar Project since the clinic fundraising began, said, ‘Don’t leave until I see you.’ And then he disappeared. He came back with a Dixie cup of dirt from South Buffalo, and said, ‘Take this with you, and when you do the groundbreaking, let the people know that this came from Buffalo, New York, and mix the ground together as a symbol that we are doing this together.’
“So, when we got done with the ground scraping, I had my soil from Buffalo. I explained to the people about the young people of Buffalo, how they are the ones who are fueling the operation of this clinic, and took the ball and ran with it for two years. Then we mixed the dirt with the ground from Sudan. Fidele said to me, ‘Aren’t you going to take any dirt back with you?’ So I scooped up some of the sandy soil and put it into the Ziploc bag to take back with us.”
While Dhan spent time with his family, Father Sajdak stayed four days in Juba with Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro, whom he told of the exchange of dirt. The archbishop took Father Sajdak into the church and showed him jars of dirt under the altar, each one from a village he was unable to visit due to threats on his life. They are placed under the altar so that when he prays over the Eucharist, he also prays over the soil, uniting the villages in their suffering.
“Who would have thought that this young person from Buffalo at Young Christians at Work would have this idea and forethought to get soil from Buffalo to join?” Father Sajdak asked.
A similar blending ceremony took place in Buffalo on June 7 (see story on page 21).
Every step of our journey was filled with insecurity,” Father Sajdak said, still amazed by what he had accomplished.
Father Sajdak and Dhan were unable to meet with Bishop Rudolph Deng Majak of Wau early in the trip as planned. While in Wau waiting for a plane to Juba, they met a man who coordinates the work of Western countries in Sudan. He introduced them to a well driller who gave them all the specifications needed for the wells.
“We were thrilled because we needed to know this information. If he had been able to fly out to Juba, we never would have met this man. What seemed like a setback turned out to be a blessing,” Father Sajdak said.
They also met Camboni Brothers who are the development director and business manager for the Diocese of Wau. They met a sister who is working with at the Health Training Institute in Wau. A group of nuns set up camp there and offer a four-year medical program. Upon graduation students will be the equivalent to a nurse practitioner. They will diagnose problems, write and fill prescriptions, do minor surgery and run the clinic.
He also met a sister who was the head of the first Catholic radio station in Sudan, Bakhita Radio, and was a guest on her show.
“Miracles every step of the way. When doors seemed to close, doors opened for us,” Father Sajdak said.
It reminded him of Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are my ways your ways, says the Lord.”
“I preach about that often. When I went to Sudan I had a list of questions that I had to ask Bishop Deng Majak. I had a list of questions that I had asked public officials about health care insurance plans, all these things that my committee had in mind that I should ask. And I had in my mind what would happen step after step after step.
“When I got there, all that went out the window. I watched it unravel in front of me, but every time one of those pages unraveled in front of me, other doors opened, and we met the important people we needed to meet. We met a person in charge of health care for the government who told me their hospitals have no medicine. Their government staff is not trained. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Father Sajdak did meet Bishop Deng Majak at the end of the trip. They discussed business, and he received the bishop’s assurance and support.
“That was the main thing because this is happening in his diocese,” Father Sajdak said.
Father Sajdak met people who gave great hope to the people of Koiyom.
“Was our trip as successful as I wanted it to be? I don’t think I accomplished what I wanted to happen. Was our trip as successful as God wanted it to be? Absolutely. From the ground scraping, to the rainfall, to the gift cane, to the people we met along the way.”
Both Northern and Southern Sudan signed a peace agreement in 2005, and now have a unified government. The president of the North is the president of the country, while the president of the South serves as vice president.
“It’s a stable yet unstable environment. It’s coerced peace right now,” Father Sajdak explained.
In 2011, all people in Sudan will be able to vote whether to stay unified or separate.
“That is a crucial vote. You have the north that doesn’t want the south to secede. You have the south that does want to secede. And you have the people in unified government and a new political party that is promoting a unified Sudan.”
Father Sajdak is not taking sides.
By Patrick J. Buechi
Staff Reporter, Western New York Catholic Newspaper
This article appeared in the July 2009 Issue of the WNY Catholic
African and American earth merged once again during a special Mass on Sunday, June 7, at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo. The Mass celebrated the culmination of two years of effort put forth from a group of 50 teens who call it the Pickle Jar Project.
The teens have dedicated their time to raising $35,000 for the outreach organization Reaching Out 2 Africa to build a clinic in Koiyom, Sudan.
“I know that your faith is what brought you to doing what you’ve been doing over the past two years, and we not only applaud you for that, we thank God for your ambition, your drive, your energy,” said Joan Ersing, pastoral associate for St. Martin’s and executive director of Reaching Out 2 Africa. “You’ve been a model for all of us, all the adults who have worked with you, behind you, trying to catch up with you. We are delighted to be able to come right on the table of the Lord, give Him the praise and the glory that this project deserves.”
During his homily, which took place on Trinity Sunday, Father Ronald Sajdak, pastor, spoke of bringing a cup of dirt from Harvest House in South Buffalo to blend with the Sudanese earth during the ground breaking ceremony in Koiyom.
Mixing the soil was the idea of Michael Powell, one of the driving forces behind the Pickle Jar Project.
“I felt like we needed to have a physical spirit of community,” said Powell, 18, of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean. “We were working with Father Ron and Fidele (Diing Dhan); that was a spiritual and also emotional connection we had. I felt we needed to give them something that had a physical connection.”
At the suggestion of Dhan, who accompanied Father Sajdak to Sudan, they brought soil back from Sudan to share with the people of the Diocese of Buffalo.
At the Mass, dirt from the parishes of the team members was mixed and blessed by Father Sajdak, along with the dirt from Sudan. Everyone present took back a cup to their parish.
Powell’s dirt will go back to St. Mary’s to be used for the parish’s Cemetery of Innocence.
“I’m going to mix it in with the dirt that’s right in there as a pro-life stand, but also in solidarity as a pro-life movement with the walk for the Lost Boys,” he said.
Anna Hoffman, a high school senior when the project began, now attends Niagara University. She has remained involved by maintaining the group’s Web site thepicklejarproject.org.
“I have been keeping in touch with people through Facebook and the Web site,” Hoffman said. “I was actually on retreat when they met the goal. They called me and I couldn’t hear a word they said because they were screaming. I was so excited. I shared it with everyone at my college.”
Hoffman said she will try to get her college to help further fund the clinic by joining the Golden Shovel Campaign, which recognized donors of $1,000.
“The Pickle Jar Project has reached the goal, but now the Pickle Jar Project becomes an example for college-aged students,” she said.
Many of the originators of the Pickle Jar Project will be going away to college this fall, but that doesn’t spell out the end. There are plans to keep the project alive with a more local goal and be run by a new group of teens.
The Diocese of Buffalo has not heard the last of the Pickle Jar Project. “Not by a long shot,” said Powell.
Fr. Ron Sajdak, Pastor of St. Martin de Porres and Director of ROTA: Reaching Out To Africa along with “Lost Boy of Sudan” Fidele Diing Dhan, pause for a brief photo after giving a presentation on ROTA’s new mission initiative: the building of the Koiyom Medical Clinic in Southern Sudan at a Sunday Lenten Soup Supper sponsored by the Justice Committee of St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport, NY. Fr. Ron and Fidele leave from USA to Southern Sudan on Easter Monday, April 13th in order to meet with local Bishops, village elders, and project directors to begin ground breaking initiatives in order to bring the new medical clinic, a dream come true for Fidele Diing Dhan into reality. In their travels they will meet with his lordship Paolino Lukudu Loro, Archbishop of Juba and his lordship Rudolf Deng Majak, Bishop of Wau. They will be carrying “over the counter” medicines to assist the people while they continue to wait for the clinic to become a reality. The meetings with Village Chiefs and Elders, as well as the Bishop of Wau, Rudolf Deng Majak will focus upon how the current situation with the president of Sudan and NGOs, Non-Government-Organizations may affect our project’s progress. Additional business items include procedures to follow concerning phase one: Brick and Mortar building; phase two: equipping the clinic; and third phase: staffing and continued support for the clinic’s viability. May St. Josephine Bakhita, Patron of Sudan, pray for us......
By Patrick J. Buechi
Western New York Catholic Reporter
With a drumroll the cew of the Pickle Jar Project announced their final tally of $35,239 collected for the building of a wing of the Koiyom Clinic in Southern Sudan. The project has been a nearly two-year effort involving 52 teenagers and a lot of spare change.
“We built this clinic on pennies and pizza,” said Patty Bubar Spear, former assistant director of the Diocesan Youth Department, who taught the teens about sacrificial giving during the Young Christians at Work service program held during Holy Week of 2007.
The teens heard they reached their goal at a monthly meeting held in Harvest House in Buffalo. The news set off a round of cheers and applause.
After hearing the good news Dan Hartley, 17, from Holy Trinity Parish in Middleport and Medina, could only speak in half sentences.
“It’s an amazing; Oh my; I can’t even describe,” he said. “Once the Pickle Jar Project was underway that was my underlying goal that really kept me going through all the hard times and stuff, just knowing we were going to reach that someday. There was such anticipation for this. It’s so gratifying knowing we are going to help all those people in Sudan.”
“I’m shocked,” said Michael Powell, 18, from St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean. “I knew all along that we were going to get it. I truly believed it, but, actually sitting here looking at the board, looking at the money we collected – words can’t describe it. I’m overwhelmed. It’s such a feeling of pride, a feeling of accomplishment. It’s great.”
“I am really energetic right now. I can’t really hold much in,” said Joe Fagan, 18, from Holy Trinity Parish in Middleport and Medina.
It was during the Young Christians program that the teens heard of the need for a clinic in Sudan and set about funding one. Inspired by a story they heard about a father who collects his spare change in a pickle jar to pay for his son’s college education, the teens began their own Pickle Jar Project. Their goal was to raise $35,000 by September of 2008. The deadline was extended to December of that year, then extended again until Jan. 30, when they met their goal. The crew was determined to reach their goal no matter how long it took.
“I struggled with it,” said Powell. “I knew going into last fall it was real difficult, but I was pulling to get it done. I sat down and thought about it after we moved it back. I said it’s not about the when, it’s about the why, why we’re doing it. No matter when we get it done, it is going to do an awful lot of good.”
The crew acts as a youth branch of Reaching Out 2 Africa, a parish-run charity based in St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo that offers humanitarian assistance, American companionship, friendship and advocacy for African refugees. Father Ronald Sajdak, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo and director of Reaching Out 2 Africa, inspired the teens by telling them the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. One of those very Lost Boys, Fidele Diing Dhan, described the need for a clinic in his homeland. Cholera and tuberculosis outbreaks are common in Koiyom. The nearest hospital is at least 60 miles away. People often travel by foot.
“The idea of building a clinic in that particular area, Koiyom, will help children who are afflicted with so many different diseases,” said Father Sajdak. “It will help with AIDS treatment, cholera and TB primarily. That’s our hope.”
The teens collected money in pickle jars kept at home, church and their places of employment. Some of the money came from varied places such as confirmation classes, Williamsville South High School’s annual “Tunes for Charity” concert, and a couple birthday parties.
Kevin Burdick, 17, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Lake View, decided to forgo birthday gifts from his friends and instead asked for money to be donated to the cause.
“Seeing as I really could not use any more items to clutter up my house, I might as well put the party for something higher than myself,” he said. “Since I heard the Pickle Jar Project was up and about and in need of money, I figured I might as well do the party for the Pickle Jar Project.” He raised $137.67.
A walkathon held last summer netted $2,000. The event will long be remembered for its near cancellation due to a lightening storm. But over 100 participants remained huddled under a shelter in Lockport until the storm passed so they could walk, much like the Lost Boys did through Africa.
Events like these allowed the teens to take on leadership roles.
“I’ve become more of a leader myself,” said Hartley, who organized the walkathon. “ I also learned to respect life and everybody, respect every single person for who they are and what they represent; that they were created in the image of God. I’ve also learned that a group of special people can really come together and create such an amazing thing that is almost like a miracle.”
There was even personal sacrifice from members of the crew. Fagan had saved some money for a Nintendo Wii game console. “After this whole idea sprung out I looked back and thought, I don’t need that. So I took the $450 I had put aside and gave it to the pickle jar because I felt I needed to do something that I don’t normally do,” he said, adding that games and such will always be there in the future. Fagan has also focused more on his spiritual side over the past 18 months and tried to focus on his future. He said the project has helped him learn about himself.
“I have learned so many life lessons through this whole experience,” he said.
The teens weren’t the only ones excited. Father Sajdak was surprised at the optimism and enthusiasm the teens displayed since the beginning of the project.
“I am thrilled beyond belief, I really am,” said Father Sajdak. At first they wanted to fund the whole clinic, which is expected to cost $95,000. Father Sajdak suggested the more realistic goal of one-third the brick and mortar cost. “Now I stand back and say, why didn’t I let them take the whole thing,” he said.
The Pickle Jar Project crew is currently planning a gathering to coincide with the clinic’s April groundbreaking. The pediatric wing, which the project is funding, will be dedicated to Father Gary Bagley, former Youth Department director, and Sister Karen Klimczak, SSJ, a local advocate of nonviolence. Both passed away in 2006.
Reprinted from the Western New York Catholic newspaper March 2009.
One Sudanese African Parishioner came to Fr. Ron recently to request prayers for his family for his 12 year old niece died suddenly near the village of Koiyom. “She was spiting up blood” he said. “There is no hospital there and the clinic we’re all hoping for is not yet a reality.” During the end of the most recent rainy season, many in the area of Koiyom were affected as a cholera epidemic spread. Calls were made to Fidele Dhan, “Lost Boy of Sudan” and Koiyom clinic project coordinator. “When is the clinic coming” they would plead with Fidele. “We continue to die here…….please help if you can.”
This sense of urgency along with the need to support the young people of the Diocese of Buffalo who have been the sole driving force behind fundraising for the clinic entitled “The Pickle Jar Project” prompts us, during this holiday season, to launch a new initiative in order to reach our goal for the brick and mortar costs of building the medical clinic in Koiyom. We are calling it the “Golden Shovel Award!” Any individual, group of individuals, churches and/or organizations that would be so kind as to donate a $1,000 gift will be named a Golden Shovel Recipient. The goal is $75,000. We need 75 one thousand dollar gifts. Seventy five Golden Shovels will be awarded after ground breaking occurs. These funds along with the fantastic commitment of the youth of the Diocese of Buffalo through their “Pickle Jar Project” will enable us to move forward post haste. We are approaching the holiday time. Indeed we have much to be grateful for this year during Thanksgiving. Indeed we need to re-evaluate our “Gift Giving” at Christmas. Maybe someone would like a Golden Shovel as a gift; knowing that the donation made in their or their family’s name will have an enormous impact half way around the world. Consider organizing your group. If Fidele Diing Dhan, Mrs. Joan Ersing, or Fr. Ron can be of any assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Just when we thought we had finished out work with the Evarist House Dormitory project, Lost Boy Fidele Diing came to us with the request that we assist him in his project of building a clinic in his home town of Koiyom, Southern Sudan. Just one week later, Fr. Ron was invited to speak Wednesday of Holy Week 2007 at the “Young Christians at Work” program run by the Diocese of Buffalo. In this program, youngsters from across the eight counties of Western New York meet and spend their Easter Holiday time working in soup kitchens, food pantries, tutoring etc. Fr. Ron was to speak in the middle of the week about ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa and the many fine works that were able to be accomplished. This time Fr. Ron invited Fidele to accompany him and to share his story and his new idea with the youth.
Though it was late in the evening, the sixty youth listened intently and were riveted to Fidele and the remarkable and miraculous story of his survival, his life, and his meeting up with Fr. Ron. [Those miracle stories may be found below.] The evening finished, the week proceeded and Easter came and went. However Easter Tuesday, Fidele and Fr. Ron were summoned to a special meeting at this Catholic Center in Buffalo where a sizable number of youth from “Young Christians at Work” were meeting certain that they could come up with the funding to build the clinic in Fidele’s village of Koiyom. After some very excited discussion it was agreed upon that building the whole clinic may require many thousands of dollars; much more than the youth could raise. However even if the youth raised $35,000 it would be enough to build a portion of clinic which they wish to dedicate in memory of the late Fr. Gary Bagley, former head of the Diocese of Buffalo Youth Department and Sr. Karen Klimczak, SSJ, martyred here in Buffalo on Good Friday, 2005. The image and story they selected was that of the pickle jar that a man used to collect spare change until his young were ready to go to college. That change became big dollars that supplied the need. In addition to personal, family, and confirmation class “pickle jars,” youth from around the Diocese have sponsored events to generate funding: school and community walk-a-thons, battle of the bands fundraising, bake sales, glove sales, dress down days, haunted houses, golf tournaments, special parish collections, and even birthday party proceeds. The youth of the Diocese of Buffalo pray that their “Pickle Jar Activities;” though in the eyes of some may be meager, be blessed and multiply so that they may accomplish their goals and help Fidele Dhan build the Koiyom Clinic in Southern Sudan.
by Rev. Ronald P. Sajdak, Pastor of St. Martin de Porres, Buffalo, NY
Director of ROTA: Reaching Out To Africa
The United States made history this year as Lopez Lomong, 23, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, carried in the American Flag at the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics. This youngster, who had to leave his family and homeland at the age of six, landed up as a foster child of a family south of Syracuse, excelled in Olympic quality distance running and will be competing this year representing us all. Lomong is one of about 3,500 “Lost Boys” that have graced our shores here in USA, many of whom are right now living among us here in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, etc. This is the story of one of these young men, Fidele Diing Dhan; One of the “Lost Boys” – One Mission Found.
In August of 2001 Dateline NBC had a special entitled the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” The program included video of the thousands upon thousands of orphaned boys walking into the camp that had been set up for them in Kenya. During the first morning at the camp, the camera panned across the sea of youngsters lying on the ground; most of them asleep; some awake; sitting up with blankets covering their faces and heads. Just then one of the boys turned and faced the camera with a puzzled look upon his face. That youngster touched my heart and I said to myself, “Child of God if you were in this country, you’d be in our house and we’d take care of you.” I’m reminded of the saying: “Be careful what you pray for; you’ll get it.” In the late summer of 2003 I received word from a friend that one of the “Lost Boys” had just been accepted to the University of Buffalo. He was looking for an inexpensive apartment to share with others. My friend requested that I check with a number of African families I knew in Buffalo asking if someone was in need of a student border. At that time most of the people I checked with were in stable homes with no extra room. I told my friend that the student would be welcome to spend some time at the St. Martin Residence until he would be able to secure his own apartment. Soon a young tall Dinka gentleman named Fidele Diing was at the door, bag in hand, and ready to take up residence with us. After a brief tour of the house and sharing with him the house rules, I shared with Fidele how from time to time some of the “Lost Boys” from Rochester accompanied me to give talks about Sudan and their particular journey. He expressed his interest and willingness to accompany us next time we would do a program. I also spoke of the Dateline NBC program that we often shared concerning their story. He became excited at that point and had heard much about it but had not seen the program as yet. That very evening we sat together in my living room and began to view the story of his people and his friends. Just into the beginning minutes of the program, pictures were being shared of the arrival of the boys and some stock footage from the UN’s refugee camp that was woven into Dateline’s story. This was one of my favorite parts with the image of the youngster that moved my heart to pray. Fidele became very nervous; he began to point toward the TV and shouted, over and over, to stop the video. We rewound it a few spaces. The replayed scene was familiar to me; the one of that youngster with the puzzled look upon his face, the same one that had touched my heart each time I viewed the program. Pointing to the image of that youngster, Fidele proclaimed “That’s me!” Indeed that very youngster, just twelve years old in the video was now twenty-five years old, sitting in my room, and taking up residence in our house at St. Martins.
Fidele Diing Dhan, one of the “Lost Boys” had left his home when he was about nine years old and joined the many other boys on their walking journey. Thousands of them left their villages, cattle pastures, and fields in order to find a place of safety after the armies of extremists of Northern Sudan raided, burned and pillaged their villages and homes. Thousands of these “Lost Boys” walked for years; many died due to disease, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and attack by wild animals, or drowning in Nile River crossings. Many settled in refugee camps in Ethiopia for some time until insurrection in Somalia forced them to take up their journey again finally ending in Kenya, Africa where the United Nations would set up a refugee camp and school for the children.
While at the camp, along with the others, through the Red Cross, Fidele received word that his parents and some siblings were still alive. He intended to finish his schooling at the camp, receive his high school diploma and then return home when a unique opportunity opened a door for him. Our then President, Bill Clinton, invited about 3,500 of the Lost Boys of Sudan to be resettled in America. Fidele was chosen to be relocated to the USA. His journey, as for so many of these young men, was an unbelievable adventure. In 2001 Fidele was resettled in Syracuse, NY with one of his sponsors being the St. Vincent de Paul parish community. After completing a GED and two year community college program with an associate degree in medical assistance, Fidele was accepted into UB and the Buffalo chapter of his life began.
As the years went by, Fidele continued his schooling, working, and visiting with others from his country. He studied for a double major and was able to complete a four year degree in psychology in three years; leaving the additional credit hours in pharmacy incomplete as yet. On June 14th, 2006, Flag Day, Fidele Diing Dhan became a US Citizen. Now he knew what he must do. In late summer last year he sold his car, dissipated his few belongings, completed his employment, took a break from school, and began a journey that would take him back to his homeland that he had not seen in over nineteen years.
Since he had left home his father had passed away, but he had the opportunity to speak to his mom and siblings. He was very excited about having the chance to be back home again. His journey took him from Buffalo to Khartoum, the capital city on the Muslim North in Sudan. There, overjoyed, he was reunited with his younger brother who was twenty-five and living in the area. After a few days of reunion, Fidele wished to continue his journey. His bother, knowing that his elder sibling may not be able to negotiate the wilds of life back in the country, accompanied him part way to ensure his safety. While on a public bus making their way down south, a terrible accident with a cargo truck occurred. Fidele was injured; his brother was killed. After the initial shock, Fidele took his brother’s body back to Khartoum for burial and took time also for himself to recuperate. Many of his friends now in the States including myself, spoke to him and urged him to return to the safety of America. “I came back to Sudan to visit more than one person; I came to visit my whole family,” he said. And so his journey, now dampened by this tragic loss, continued.
After some time of shared sadness over the loss of his brother, his family rejoiced to see him alive and well. However, a strange event began to occur. People from the village who were ill or injured began to seek him out even when he was still asleep asking if there was something he could do for them. He knew that he had not completed his pharmacy degree and even if he did he knew that currently there was no infrastructure operational in his town within which his skill could be used. After a few months with family he bid them goodbye and returned to Buffalo. Finding a new place to live, getting employed again, and beginning to seek out how he would be able to continue his education occupied his time at his return. However his pre-occupation was his passion that he should be able to help his people, not only later through his acquired skill, but through some program that he may initiate right here and now. It was then that he contacted St. Martin de Porres and ROTA: Reaching Out To Africa, beginning to discern the possibility of a new program. ROTA, which already has dug a functional cistern well, and built a new women’s dormitory at the St. Charles Lwanga Butende Technical Institute in Uganda, agreed that we would support Fidele Diing Dhan, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan and his newfound mission: The Koiyom Clinic & School. The telling of Fidele’s story has enlightened and empowered many of the youth of our Buffalo church to support his efforts. Many young people of our community have been impressed by his bravery, his selflessness, and his dedication to help his people. To date youth of the Church at Buffalo have raised over $21,000 for the clinic through a variety of programs such as: Pickle Jar Collection Containers at Churches, Schools, and local businesses; Walk-A-Thons; benefits concerts, coffee houses, etc.
As a country, we can be very proud of our African brother, Olympic Athlete, new citizen and New Yorker, Lopez Lomong. St. Martin de Porres and Reaching Out To Africa is so very proud of Fidele Diing Dhan, one of many of the “Lost Boys” in the greater New York Area who are also engaged in projects to help rebuild and assist their war torn homeland. We are proud to call them our brothers and our sons.
Click on a link below to read about ROTA's efforts in Southern Uganda.
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
It all began with an innocent question in a telephone conversation between Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi, coordinator of Catholic Health Care for the Diocese of Masaka Uganda and Fr. Ron Sajdak. “Where do your twenty-nine clinics and two hospitals purchase your equipment and medicines?” Surprisingly, the answer wasn’t the name of a local distributor but the JMS: Joint Medical Store; operated by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in the Archdiocese of Kampala; located some two and a half hours away. The wheels of thought began turning from that point onward: “wouldn’t it be more convenient if such a facility were more centrally located within the Diocese of Masaka for their own medical outreach projects?” A new facility was envisioned for just such an enterprise and ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa ministry discerned then committed their involvement.
The first order of business was getting permission for and enabling Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi to fly from Uganda to Buffalo to participate in the 2010 Diocesan Missionary Cooperative. Each year the Diocese of Buffalo receives approximately two hundred letters of request to be considered and chosen for the annual spring/summer Mission Cooperative. Of these many applications, fifty are chosen each year. Missionary communities and/or mission organizations based within the Diocese get preference if they wish to participate. Because ROTA was invited by the Pontifical Mission Societies Office and Fr. Emmanuel received permission from his bishop to be in the USA for about one month, plans were made for his arrival. Though there were some scheduling difficulties, it worked out that in 2010 Fr. Emmanuel had the opportunity to speak at Immaculate Conception Parish in East Aurora, Good Shepherd Parish in Pendleton, and Sts. Peter and Paul in Hamburg. The contributions from these parish communities, along with a contribution from the “Hope Fund” of St. Vincent parish in Springbrook, and the dedicated support from ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa enabled him to begin the project with some confidence. Work on the project continued and ROTA’s Africa Project Supervisor, former “Lost Boy of Sudan” FideleDhan had the opportunity to visit the job site and inspect the progress. Portions of the Mission Cooperative Contributions from the 2011 Mission Appeal by ROTA held at Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, Sts. Columba Brigid in Buffalo and Blessed John XXIII in West Seneca were added to the project funds.
On Friday, May 18th in the early morning the skies above looked heavy with rain clouds prompting Deacon Matt Hens to ask one of the African priests who joined us for the event, “Father, say a prayer that it doesn’t rain today for our event.” His response was classic, “We Africans don’t have a prayer for it ‘not’ to rain….rain is always a blessing.” Needless to say God smiled on us Americans and the clouds blew over to reveal a most beautiful afternoon. Three tents were set up at the Medical Store location in which Mass would be offered. Soon Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, Bishop of Masaka, his Vicar General and other priests, women religious, as well as staff and members of their “Catholic Charities” ministry all gathered under the tents to begin Holy Mass, blessing and dedication of the new medical store building. Fr. Ron Sajdak, Director of the ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa Ministry cut the ribbon to open the facility and the gathered assembly walked through the building inspecting the most excellent work of the skilled laborers. What followed was drumming music, choir songs and tribal dance from the members of the Archbishop Kiwanuka Secondary School of Kitovu. Following the music was a host of speeches given by all who were gathered, witnessing to the generosity of the people of the Church in Buffalo and the partnership with the Church of the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda through ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa. This most excellent event was concluded with the sharing of gifts from our African hosts to our American delegation and gifts from us to them as well.
While speaking about the official “Mission” activity of the Church in a day of recollection for the Permanent Deacon Candidates and their wives, one person commented that they are aware of all the missionaries that continually come into our diocese, share their stories with us, receive our support, but then are gone mostly never to be heard from again. The events that occurred in May in Kitovu, Diocese of Masaka, is but one of the many success stories of our Mission Church’s efforts around the world. The new medicine store will mean better quality, quantity, and cost effective drugs reaching the twenty-nine basic health centers and clinics as well as the two hospitals that the Diocese of Masaka offers as a concrete expression of Jesus’ Gospel of care and concern for the least of our sisters and brothers. The Advisory Board of ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa would like to thank the people of the Body of Christ in Buffalo for your continued assistance and support. Thanks for making “The Missions” an important part of your prayer and support. Because of you miracles continue to happen across the globe. Thank you for your confidence in ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa………..
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
O ne of the greatest experiences we encountered while visiting the Diocese of Masaka Uganda this past May 2012 was to revisit the site which was one of the two first involvements for ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa on the African continent.
In 2002 we had the distinct privilege of meeting Fr. EvaristLubega while he was here in the United States on a bit of a rest from his ministry. He was the then Director of the St. Charles LwangaButende Technical Institute. It was this very close friendship that began the coordination of initiatives that would assist the school in the installation of its first Cistern Well which would provide clean water year around. The fundraising for this venture was quite successful. We also began to market the school as St. Charles Lwanga BTI as an abbreviated form of the school’s location designation. Much to our surprise we saw that our name for the school was in use even at the school itself. Since those beginning years of 2002 onward, the St. Charles Lwanga BTI continues to grow and development. It has support from many entities around the world and continues to equip many youth with the vocational skills they so need in order to obtain gainful employment and support their selves as well as their future families.
We had the opportunity, during our visit in May 2012, of celebrating Mass for the student body. We then received a tour of the school in order to observe the advances that they have acquired since our last visit in 2008. One very exciting moment was visiting the new computer lab on the premises. The school has come a long way with computer terminals and monitors recessed into beautiful Butende made wooden cabinetry. What surprised the female computer instructor was her first look at an “I-pad.” All of a sudden, via satellite, the school was connected to the WWW. Her eyes could not have been wider and her innocence very sincere when she asked if we were leaving this device behind for the school.
The last time members of ROTA traveled together was for the groundbreaking for the new medical clinic in the Village of Koiyom, South Sudan back in April of 2009. Because of the rapid success of our friends in the Diocese of Masaka Uganda, ROTA, along with the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Diocese of Buffalo, is planning a mission trip to witness the blessing and dedication of what we have called the Kitovu Medicine Depot and what is officially to be named the Diocese of Masaka Health Drug Store.
It will take approximately take 23 hours of travel time, (Nineteen hours in the air) to reach our destination. We will be on the continent for approximately ten days. Tour will include the following: Sunday Mass at a local parish community, visitation of several medical clinics serviced by the Catholic Health Care System of the Diocese, St. Charles Lwanga Butende Technical Institute, Shrine Church of St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs as well as the dedication of the Masaka Health Drug Store, a project sponsored by ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa.
Traveling with Fr. Ron Sajdak, Director and Mrs. Joan Ersing, Executive Director of ROTA will be Deacon Matthew Hens, representing the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Diocese of Buffalo and Gregg Prince, Media Specialist from the Diocese of Buffalo Communication Department. Africa Project Supervisor, former "Lost Boy" Fidele Diing Dhan, has already been in Uganda for a few months and will also be present for the dedication. We hope to simulcast the dedication ceremony from the Diocese of Masaka to the Diocese of Buffalo on Friday, May 18th, 2012.
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
It all began with a conversation between Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi, coordinator of the Catholic Health Care for the Diocese of Masaka Uganda and myself concerning how medicines are obtained by his health system's twenty-nine clinics and two hospitals. With the need to begin such purchases to assist the supply of the medical clinic project in Koiyom, South Sudan, I was surprised to hear that the Catholic clinics of Masaka purchased their medicine supplies quite independently of each other. I suggested that if the Diocese could purchase larger quantities of medicines these in turn would be able to be made available for the clinics within their system at a lower price than what they could secure independently. Such was our conversation and the Kitovu Medicine Depot/Diocesan Health Drug Store project was born. Soon after the idea came to light ROTA worked to petition the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Diocese of Buffalo for permission to be involved in the Mission Cooperative of 2010. With that permission obtained ROTA worked to fly Fr. Emmanuel to Buffalo and begin the process of raising the funds to accomplish the task.
Just like our project in South Sudan, when the funds run out the work stops until such a time that funds are again available. The Mission Cooperative of 2010 raised $15,000 USD that gave Fr. Emmanuel the ability to break ground and begin the project. Last summer Fidele Dhan, ROTA's African Project Supervisor had the opportunity to tour the project with Fr. Emmanuel. Additional funds for the Ugandan project were obtained from the Mission Cooperative of 2011 along with monies raised for the project through our newsletter and mailings, enabling us to wire funds to Fr. Emmanuel. He assumes that the majority of the building project will be completed by the end of December 2011. During our Mission trip to the Diocese of Masaka in May of 2012, we will witness the dedication of the Diocesan Health Drug Store. Thanks be to God for all who provide such miracles..Amen!
By Fr. Ron Sajdak
June is the month of welcome for missionaries from around the whole world into the Diocese of Buffalo. ROTA was pleased to provide the transportation, room and board for one of our African friends, Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi of the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda. Fr. Emmanuel was best friends with Fr. Evarist Lubega who assisted ROTA in expanding out reach onto the African continent itself. I met Fr. Emmanuel when Richard Ersing and I made our first journey to the Diocese of Masaka Uganda to visit our good friend Fr. Evarist Lubega. Fr. Emmanuel was the local parish pastor. I was surprised that he was able to open a medical clinic within his parish to help provide needed medical care for his parishioners. Fr. Emmanuel's bishop noticed his love for medical assistance of people and currently he is the coordinator of the Catholic Health Care System for his Diocese. He oversees twenty-nine clinics and two hospitals. After consultation with ROTA it was determined that we would support his efforts to construct a medicine depot which would purchase medicines in bulk and distribute them to the twenty-nine clinics and two hospitals within the Church's health care system in Masaka. The Propagation of the Faith Office in Buffalo accepted ROTA's 2010 request to have Fr. Emmanuel come to Buffalo a second time and he was assigned various parishes last June. He had preached in Immaculate Conception Parish in East Aurora, Good Shepherd & St. Augustine worship site, and Saints Peter & Paul in Hamburg. Many thanks to each pastor and the generosity of the people. The funds wired to Fr. Emmanuel enabled him to begin the Kitovu Medical Depot project. Land was secured and measured off. The foundations were laid and the building has begun to take shape. Fr. Emmanuel has been in communication with ROTA and hopes that the $15,000 USD necessary to complete the project may be raised. ROTA has been accepted again for the 2011 Mission Cooperative in the Diocese of Buffalo. We hope that we will be able to raise the much needed funds to complete this project. Unlike our building project in Sudan, Masaka Uganda has building materials, a skilled workforce, and an economy that allows one American dollar to be massively productive. We pray for the success of our appeal and for the completion of this much needed project for our sisters and brothers in Uganda.
Fr. Evarist Lubega
Of our Sister Ministry: St. Charles Lwanga BTI
Butende Technical School, Masaka, UGANDA
Date of Birth: August 3rd, 1959
Ordained to Priesthood: July 31st, 1988
(16+ years a Holy Priest)
Entered into Eternal Life: Sunday, May 1st, 2005 (45 years old)
This is the feast day of the Lord’s true witness,
Who on this day received the glory due him.
Let all creation celebrate his goodness,
Cherish his memory.
Prudent in judgment, gentle toward all others,
Open, unselfish in the love he offered.
All of his days the Gospel was his wisdom,
Christ his true teacher.
Brother was he to all the world’s forgotten;
Lonely and ill, they came to him for healing.
God gave him power, gifts for our salvation:
Love, health, and pardon.
“Iste Confessor” 8th Century Hymn
Fr. Evarist Lubega was ordained and served within the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda; his lordship John Baptist Kaggwa, bishop. Fr. Evarist took a position as director of the St. Charles Lwanga Butende Technical Institute (BTI). While there and desiring some rest he made a journey in January 2001 to Buffalo, New York to visit another Ugandan priest from Masaka who resided in Niagara Falls, NY, Fr. Matthias Kibuka. He often spoke of that first visit to the Western New York area and how surprising it was that it was so very cold and that we had something he had never seen before……snow. During his first visit he accompanied Fr. Matthias on most of his ministry ventures that took him far and wide including some ministry in the East Pembroke area. He met many people and became fast friends with all. Soon his one month was over and he headed back to the beautifully green and always warm Southern Uganda.
In the following year, January of 2002 he made his journey again to Western New York. New friends he had met in East Pembroke facilitated his travel and looking for a place to stay he moved into the rectory of the former St. Matthew Church re-titled the St. Martin de Porres Residence. He assisted St. Martin de Porres’ first pastor Rev. Roderick Brown, OP. It was only a few weeks later, while attending the Diocesan Martin Luther King Jr. Mass on January 20th, 2002 that he met Fr. Ron Sajdak and became fast friends. His sabbatical time was scheduled for only three months but that was extended to six and then nine months. Because Fr. Evarist was with us for that length of time, in addition to Buffalo winter, he had the opportunity to experience his first “Springtime.” Like a little child each day he awoke to new life bursting around him; each day praising God for this new experience. He once told me that he thought we in Buffalo endured life with snow and dead like trees all year long.
Fr. Ron and Fr. Evarist spent very much time together and the idea of raising funds to assist the St. Charles Lwanga school was surfaced. A dinner meeting with construction contractors and their wives was held in Orchard Park, NY with Fr. Evarist as the guest speaker. Fr. Evarist had been sharing how different workshops of students all took turns twice a day, walking three miles and retrieving water from a spring to bring to the school where it was boiled and purified to be used for personal washing, cooking, etc. and while Fr. Evarist spoke about the typical lifestyle of a day at the school, one of the dinner’s participants inquired if a well, dug upon the property, may do more to assist the students at this time than sending tools, books, etc. With a puzzled look upon his face he admitted that he had never considered that…..and the idea of a well project was born.
While celebrating Mass at St. Martin de Porres and sharing his new initiatives concerning the Well Project, he made the good fortune of indicating that one small American penny would go a long way to assist his students. Pastoral Associate Sr. Philip Marie appeared minutes later in front of the congregation holding two large black buckets in her hands indicating that these would hold all the pennies that the congregation would collect in order to assist this humble priest. The penny drive was on. Fr. Evarist returned to his homeland and St. Charles Lwanga BIT and soon the construction of the school’s well became a reality. This was the beginning of ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa’s “Third World Connections” outreach reaching the motherland of Africa itself.
It wasn’t long afterwards that another note was sent to his supporters back in Buffalo, New York. In his own words he said: “Dear friends and benefactors, it is quite some time since I communicated. I hope you are all healthy and preparing to enter the Buffalo cold / winter. All your friends in the Institute continue to salute you all and pray for you. Life has continued to improve and the causes of St Charles Lwanga Technical Institute furthered. Ever since we completed constructing the water tank (end of March, 2003) the number of students has increased from 196 to the current figure of 273. This is due to the fact that we now have at the premises good clean water. Students are safe from waterborne diseases that used to harass us. Time and energy is all spent on curriculum work. In fact many more parents want their children to join the Institute but we have no dormitory space to inhabit them. May I therefore request that that for any future Sister Ministry Plans - consideration be made for putting up another students' dormitory” The invitation to our second project was made and ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa took up the challenge.
The first on site visit to the St. Charles Lwanga BTI was made by Fr. Ron Sajdak and Mr. Richard Ersing in February 2005. They inspected the well project, met the faculty and students and were able to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for all God’s blessings in forming these international relationships. The disturbing news was soon to come that our good friend and brother Fr. Evarist had expired. His slight frame weakened from constant battles with typhoid fever, pneumonia, and recurring bouts of Malaria soon took him from us. Quickly, ROTA sent for the school’s principal, Mr. Stephen Sseruwu to make a journey to Buffalo New York for a Memorial Service for Fr. Evarist and help the Western New York area renew its dedication to the St. Charles Lwanga, BTI. His visit did just that and the “Evarist House” dormitory project was well on the way. In 2008 a delegation of five representatives were on hand for the blessing and dedication of “Evarist House” a dormitory for young women students at the St. Charles Lwanga BTI, donated by ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa.
(Click Evarist House box to start the Slide Show)
(Click Share the Well box to start the Slide Show)
(Click B.T.I. box to start the Slide Show)
A Brief History
St. Charles Lwanga
In the period after Colonialism, many corrupt dictatorships were in power. These often led to civil unrest and war. This along with the widespread manifestation of HIV/AIDS has left Uganda filled with many orphaned boys and girls as well as many widows.
In 1982, the Church of the Diocese of Masaka began the St. Charles Lwanga Trade School as a way of ministering to the practical needs of these many suffering peoples.
In 1996 Fr. Evarist Lubega was appointed as Director and devotes all his efforts to bring assistance to the school which helps so many develop skills that can both help themselves, their families, and also their country through this investment in their nation’s best natural resource, its people.
Two Year Program of Study
Suitable Candidates may be recommended to take the National Technical Exam. If it is successfully completed, they may be awarded a National Technical Certificate.
Consists of Three Semesters
David Mugaga is a young orphaned boy who served as an Altar Server and worked for the priests of his parish fetching firewood and water. At age 21, David was invited to become a laborer employee of the school. While working he also studied as a student apprentice in woodworking. Currently he is on staff as an instructor.
Rose Nakazibwe is a young woman with five children. She doesn’t know if her husband is living or dead since he never returned from a recent war. She grew beans near her home and often looked for markets to sell them and support her family. She was invited to work as a cook at the school. It was discovered that in addition to being a good cook she was an excellent tailor. She was invited to remain at the school as an instructor but because of her family obligations that was impossible. However, the school provided her a sewing machine that she was able to take home and use to teach seven orphaned students from her town while still taking care of her children’s needs.
Joinery, Operating Hand Tools, Furniture Making
Brick Making, Block Laying, House Building
15 Sewing Machines/Clothes
Currently 196 Total Students
77% male/23% female
50% Resident/50% Day Students-18+ years old
The school accepts contracts from various venues in its Carpentry Shop. To defray the costs of tuition students work in production of furniture goods after school hours, 6:00pm-9:00pm five days a week.