REACHINGOUT2AFRICA.COM : Humanitarian Assistance

Humanitarian Assistance

The need for additional humanitarian assistance, American companionship, friendship, and advocacy for African refugees and their families, have been the main focus points of our "Reaching Out 2 Africa" ministry. This takes place through a series of direct service opportunities uniting people of different cultures.

Click on the link(s) below to read about ROTA's Humanitarian Assistance.

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Humanitarian Assistance

Putting people together helps us realize that we are really a small village of people reaching out to help one another. Our lives have always been and will always be enriched as we "go out of ourselves" in order to make room for others, their families, their needs, their blessings, their friendship.

Click on the link(s) below to read about ROTA's Humanitarian Assistance.


       One of our local refugee families were the unfortunate victim of an early morning fire that quickly engulfed a 2 1/2-story house and spread to two adjacent houses, 110 and 114 Massachusetts, leaving at least five families without a place to live. Ten children and one adult were taken to hospitals, mostly to be treated for smoke inhalation. Waler Douth's extended family of nine, new here in Buffalo from South Sudan, fled from their apartment. His daughter, Nyakouth, 15, a sophomore at Hutchinson Central Technical High School, didn't even have time to put on her shoes. ROTA was able to assist the African family who wished to relocate to Nebraska after the tragic experience of the fire. Another former refugee family’s apartment was also demolished by fire. They lost all their belongings and were displaced. The mom showed her true strength as she single handedly worked to move her family out of the Red Cross shelter into another apartment that was unoccupied. However the apartment proved to be a disaster for them and so she again sprung into action and located another more reasonable setting at least for now. ROTA was able to assist her with a new refrigerator and gas stove along with plastic weather sealing of their apartment windows and some donated furniture items.




A      few years ago the Pontifical Mission Societies ministry changed the name of its youth division from “Holy Childhood” to “Missionary Childhood” Association putting more emphasis on the fact that children should be called upon to assist children around the whole world. For the last few years we at ROTA have been invited into a number of public, private and Catholic schools to share a “clean water” workshop inspired by the middle school’s reading of “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park.  The seventh grade reading level novel chronicles the incredible life story of  the “Lost Boy of the Sudan” Salva Dut who is of the Dinka tribe and parallels it to a contemporary story of a young girl of the Nuer tribe named Nya who also walks a distance for water each day.  In the recent past violent uprisings in South Sudan often occurred between both of these large tribes and so the book is very timely. At the end of the story Salva, now all grown up has a current life mission effort to bring clean water drinking wells into Nya’s village and they both meet and see that peace between the tribes is possible through humanitarian assistance and a spirit of real caring for each other.
When ROTA conducts our workshop we begin with a short video which helps the youth to understand the twenty-five year civil war that produced the reality of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan. We also share with them the story of one of our own “Lost Boys” Fidele Dhan. Through three and five gallon Jerri Water Can relays we help selected students experience the arduous task of walking long distances for water. We then introduce them to one or more of the “Lost Boys” that are here in the Buffalo area. The students prepare questions based on their reading of the book and their general inquiry about the boy’s survival and adaptation to the USA.
   Finally the students do targeted fundraising that is then contributed to ROTA for clean water projects. This past May I had the chance to visit four of the five schools that have received the benefit of their fundraising. Though the many students were on their one month break from school, I did get to meet those who had come to their schools for additional summer school help. It was a great pleasure to view for myself the water tanks that had been sponsored by: Our Lady of Black Rock, East Aurora Middle, and West Seneca  East Middle Schools. The water tank sponsored by Cleve Hill Middle was a bit too far a distance to make in this trip. However in addition to the water tanks I had the extreme pleasure of inaugurating a new classroom addition to one of the most poor schools in the area. In the near future, the funding received by ROTA from Nativity of the BVM School in Clarence will provide life saving water for this school as well. A Mass of Thanksgiving, blessing of the new classroom addition, and most joyous welcome by the children and their families, all made this visit to Uganda one filled with thanksgiving at the miracles that can happen through missionary efforts of children helping children! Great job!!!    



B ack in 2012, when five representatives from ROTA and the Diocese of Buffalo were able to travel to Masaka Uganda for the dedication of the Medical Store Project, we had the opportunity to visit with Fidele and his family at their homestead in Uganda. There, as we were standing by the entrance gate was a young 9 year old girl with two children at her side. The boy was Fidele’s young Diing Diing and his baby sister Abuk. The young child was Fidele’s niece Monica. The joy of Fidele’s family being able to reunite in USA in July 2016 was tinged with a bit of sadness for Monica, who had been raised by Fidele’s wife and regarded Abang as her mom and Fidele as her dad, had no documentation and could not move with the family. She was sent to yet more relatives to continue in school and live in Uganda until some plan could be devised. After consultation with immigration officials both in USA and Uganda, the only way the child could reunite with her family was by the formal adoption of Monica by Fidele’s wife. An attorney in Uganda was hired and the process began in April of 2016. After a year and a half, a change in Ugandan Adoption Law, and many donated dollars of support from ROTA for this initiative, the adoption was approved. Now it has been two years since she has been separated from her family. ROTA has contracted with a US Immigration Attorney to file the necessary papers for her to travel here to rejoin her family. It is our hope that young Monica soon will be able to travel to USA, reunite with her family here, resume school, and begin her new life in America. Thank you to all our supporters who allow us to bring gifts of joy to families from around the whole world. Congratulations Dhan family.


F or this little six year old, never having to watch his father leave him behind again was a dream come true. For six years, this little boy enjoyed time with his dad in their African home. But several times a year, when he would go to sleep and wake again, his father would be gone. His father would go back to America to continue to study in school and work to support his extended family members who relocated from the Sudan to the capital city of Kampala, Uganda, East Africa. Now after years of pleading, his father finally would allow him to travel with him back to America. January 15th 2015 this newly turned six year old American Citizen landed on American soil for the first time right into one of the coldest winter seasons that Buffalo had seen in years. However the cold could not dampen the joy of being with his dad. Cold temperatures and snow, winter boots and coats, first grade in a new school, making new friends, discovering new cousins, choir rehearsals in a new church, learning to operate his daddy’s smart phone and playing the “war” card game with Abuna, Fr. Ron all created chapters in a new life in America for former lost boy, Fidele Diing Dhan’s first born son, Diing. At first the little boy acquired the personality of his father: quiet, private, “laid back.”

Little Diing came with the understanding that mom and his sisters would soon follow. Plans were being made, immigration paper work submitted, Interpol investigations in other countries completed, many documents filed appropriately, and ROTA funding submitted but there always seemed to have been one “hang up” after another. Ten months after his son arrived in Buffalo, Fidele made his way alone back to Uganda to check on the rest of the family and monitor the immigration progress there. Originally we had hoped that all things would have been completed by this time and the whole family reunited when Fidele would return in December 2015. The day came and though excited to remain up past his bedtime, little Diing was glad to see his dad return but somewhat disappointed that he returned alone without his mom, sisters, and new born brother. The new year 2016 brought with it the excitement that the “Green Card” application was accepted and plans now were being made to reunite the Dhan family. Little Diing was reservedly excited but apprehensive as well. He colored in the “Welcome to the USA” sign and made sure it had the names of his mom, two sisters and new brother that he had not yet met. In the airport he waited nervously truly wondering if this would really happen. However, little Diing was not alone. Fidele also spoke to his wife as she, the two girls and baby son were boarding their first jet plane ride on a three stop trip to bring them to this new land of the USA. There was no further communication with them assuring us that they made their connections, handled all the immigration materials in the US and finally made the brief trip to Buffalo. Before we knew it though we saw them arriving, greeting, and being welcomed to Buffalo. The balloons, flowers, and expertly crafted sign all helped to make the family welcome. The trip back to the St. Lawrence Residence was short and many South Sudanese joined in the welcome celebration. The family would make their transition to USA by a nine month stay in the St. Lawrence Residence. Through your generous support of ROTA, Fidele Dhan, former “Lost Boy” has reunited with his family and little Diing begins to relax, smile, laugh and be filled with joy now that they are all together again. Thanks for making dreams come true.


For the third Christmas Holiday Season, the ROTARY Club of Clarence, NY, joined together with ROTA to provide a “Christmas Party” for ROTA refugee children and their parents. Pizza, Christmas arts & crafts and stockings full of gifts and treats were all part of the delight of the afternoon. A visit from Santa was the highlight of the event that was held again at Our Lady of Black Rock School on December 16th, 2012. Special thanks to Father Richard Jedrzejewski and the good people of Assumption Parish for donating the use of their facility yet again for this holiday event. In the unfortunate absence of the Rotary Club’s musician, Fr. Ron was elected to keep the children busy while Santa prepared for his arrival….. How many times did we really sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town???”
            Along with the dedicated Rotary Club of Clarence were ROTA Board Members who assisted in making the afternoon a real celebration for our children and their families. We all had a Merry Christmas and that evening following of the party….all a good night.


O ne goal of most refugees who arrive in our area is taking advantage of the educational possibilities that exist here. As many make their way to USA citizenship, they also climb the academic latter of success enabling them to secure better employment, provide for their family, and become the new tax base for our own country. ROTA would like to congratulate the many who we know and have ministered to/with who have reached these milestones in their lives: ROTA Advisory Board Members: Jenaro O Aken—Canisius College and Benoit Kabayiza-D’Youville; also LualDut-UB; AloorArop-ECC; AgeegRual-Riverside HS; MadutAyiy-St. Augustine Scholars, and the many more. God bless you all and continue to give success to the work of your hands…...


By Joan Ersing

Reaching Out 2 Africa continues to assist local African families in Western New York while coordinating construction and development in Uganda and South Sudan. Recently ROTA has provided the following assistance to local African Families:

· TOPS Gift Cards for food & Gasoline
· School Tuition Assistance
· New Laptop Computers for adult students
· 4 new mattress sets
· One set of bunk beds & bedding
· Eye Examinations & Eye Glasses
· Legal Fees & Court Costs
· New household Refrigerator
· New household Stove
· Used furnishings for a new apartment
· Moving vans and assistance, etc.
· Washer and Dryer appliances

ROTA’s outreach is on call 24 hours a day. The needs are varied and sometimes overwhelming for the families. We appreciate donations of gift cards to help in this outreach ministry. Gift cards from TOPS, Wal-Mart and Target, as well as gas cards, are always welcome and always needed. Thank You!



On last year's Feast Day of St. Martin de Porres, November 3rd, 2011 two of our good friends took their oath of citizenship and rightfully became United States Citizens. Congratulations to Abuk Masham and Wol Ayiy. The ceremony took place in the Federal Court House. No matter how many of these we attend we're always impressed with this simple ceremony as people from all over the world take those steps to join us here in USA. May God continue to bless our friends as they continue to walk among us.





By Joan Ersing

For the second Christmas Holiday Season, the ROTARY Clubs of Clarence, NY, joined us to provide a "Christmas Party" for 40 ROTA children and their parents. Music, Pizza, crafts and gifts were all part of the delight of the Sunday afternoon. A visit from Santa was the highlight of the event that was held again at Our Lady of Black Rock School on December 11th. Special thanks to Father Richard Jedrzejewski and the people of Assumption Parish for donating the use of their facility for this holiday event. Members of both ROTARY clubs joined to provide this wonderful event. A special thank you for all who planned and set up and cleaned up including ROTARY members, ROTA volunteers and to Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parishioners for their generous donation of "Stockings" for each of the children


By Fr. Ron Sajdak


                In addition to a beautiful evening with friends and supporters last September, Fidele Diing Dhan surprised those gathered by carefully sharing some very good news. He spoke of how ever since he made himself known again to his family back in 2006, that for family security reasons as well as tribal tradition, his mom and family were impressing upon him the need for him to marry. After successfully skirting the issue he returned back to Buffalo and then began the clinic project. When he returned back to the Sudan in late 2007, he found that his family had selected a wife for him. As the eldest in his family, Fidele is responsible for his mom and younger siblings. None of his younger brothers would be allowed to marry until he was wed. In late 2007 Fidele agreed and married a beautiful young Abong.jpgwoman named Abang whom his family had chosen for him. It was after the traditional tribal wedding that he relocated his mom, new wife, as well as younger siblings to Southern Uganda for safety reasons and opportunities for education. When Fidele and I had traveled into Sudan for the ground breaking celebration Ding Ding  5 months old.jpgback in 2009, afterward he was on his way back to Uganda. It was also at this time that he revealed the good news to me that he was, for the first time, going to meet his four month old son, Diing Diing. At this writing little Diing Diing is over two years old. Fidele often says that he enjoys school and all the opportunities he has had and still has as an American citizen. However now when he goes back to Africa to his family’s temporary home in Uganda, his family includes Diing Diing.24.1.jpghis own wife and child. On March 29th Abang called her husband Fidele and shared some good news. She gave birth to Fidele’s second child; a baby girl that they named Abuk Diing Dhan. “Abuk” is the name “Eve” in the Dinka language. Coming back to America each time is much more difficult for Fidele as he leaves his wife and children behind for now. Fidele continues to study finishing his first year of a nursing program at D’Youville College. His future objectives include: continue school for a few years finishing with a degree as a nurse practitioner, building a more stable house for his mother back in the village of Koiyom, work here and pay off some of his debts, establish himself here in America to the point that he can move his family here to USA. We pray for Fidele, Abang, Diing Diing, and Abuk. Many thanks to the St. Vincent de Paul Parish Hope Fund and many others who have contributed to help support Fidele’s extended family while he works on his degree in nursing at D’Youville College.



By Fr. Ron Sajdak

DSC03424Forty pre-registered African Sudanese voters along with Fr. Ron Sajdak boarded a Grand Tour Bus early Sunday, January 9th to begin a journey to Toronto Canada where they would cast their vote in the Historic Referendum for residents of Southern Sudan. The bus, sponsored by ROTA: “Reaching Out 2 Africa” Ministries of St. Martin de Porres Church and CRS: Catholic Relief Services of Western New York, was filled with great excitement and joy as these Sudanese “citizens in exile” exercised their new freedom in this way.      

Poll Station 1.JPGMost recently in Sudan’s complicated history, a peace agreement was signed in 2005 which brought an end to a violent civil war between the North and South that had been raging for over twenty-three years. Since the peace agreement, the South and North have had inter-dependent governments with government ministries in the South occupied by southerners and the president of the South functioning as the Vice-President of the unified government for the whole country. Another tenet of the agreement was the sharing of oil revenue 50/50 between the South and the North. These monies, in addition to providing for the government offices of the South ,assisted in the development of infrastructure that had been absent for all the years of the civil war.  The final stipulation of the peace accord was the right of Southern Sudanese to determine if their country should remain unified with the Northern government or secede from the North to form an independent country; the fifty-fifth on the African Continent.

DSC03429.JPGA stipulation of the Referendum Commission was that over 60% of the registered voters needed to actively participate in order for the election to be valid. To date over 98% of the registered voters participated. To register, people in Southern Sudan had to travel long distances by foot and wait for long periods of time to prove their citizenship as Southerners. Southern Sudanese in exile around the world had designated polling places established by the commission and many had to travel many miles to reach them. Then beginning January 9th until January 15th registered voters had to make the journey again; this time to place their thumb print on which they prefer: unity as it is or separation: South from the North.      

Poll Station 2.JPGThough the temperatures were frigid, the spirit during the two and a half hour ride to the polling station was at fever pitch. Songs of praise and worship filled the bus and both men and women led the call and response to songs and rally style cheers.  Our bus delegation waited for over three hours in the bitter cold to finally enter the small community center and have the freedom to DSC03437.JPGexercise their new found right to vote. As the world watched, this Biblical people stood up for themselves peacefully and with great order and dignity, participated in a life changing event for their whole country.  The final results expected 99% have officially voted for separation. The implementation of the will of the people will take place on July 9th, 2011; a new Independence Day for Southern Sudan. Congratulations to all our Brothers and Sisters who remind us of the value of fighting for valuable freedom. 

A Christmas Party 2011

By Joan Ersing

Holiday Party 1.JPGThis Christmas the Williamsville and Clarence ROTARY Clubs hosted a Christmas Party for our children of our Sudanese Families. Assumption Parish on the Westside of Buffalo donated the use of their cafeteria in the “Our Lady of Black Rock School” building. Fifty of the children that ROTA has worked with gathered for a Sunday afternoon filled with Christmas crafts, pizza, live Holiday Party 3.JPGChristmas music and of course, a visit from Santa himself! Dominic and Diane Cortese were the driving force behind this project. They organized the volunteers from their ROTARY clubs, gathered gifts from donations at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Harris Hill, donated the food and provided a wonderful time of fellowship and fun for all. ROTA is extremely grateful for the overwhelming endeavor undertaken by our new friends!


We are most grateful for all the support shown the ministries of ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa. In September 2010 we had the opportunity to recognize and thank all you our supporters.

GoldenShovelPLATINUM SHOVEL AWARDS - $5,000+ Donors
ANONYMOUS – Florida Donor
Queen of Heaven Parish Community
St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral
D’Youville College
Saints Peter & Paul/Hamburg
Immaculate Conception/East Aurora

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary Club
Queen of Heaven School
R&P Oak Hill Development LLC
Susan Santandreu
Dr. Joseph & Annalise Biondolillo
Good Shepherd Parish
St. Benedict School Class of 2010

In Memory of Fr. Gary Bagley
Mary Ellen Glass
Msgr. Leo Hammerl
Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph
Sonia L. Walker
St. Mary’s Elementary School
Daniel & Joanne Zwolinski


DSC01541.JPG2006 Citizenship.jpg In 2006 we were all so very proud of Fidele Dhan’s accomplishment: graduation from UB with a BA degree in Psychology and becoming a USA Citizen as well. One year after this milestone Fidele came to us with his idea of the Koiyom Medical Clinic project and that also influenced his future educational endeavors.  His long range goal is becoming certified as a nurse practitioner. With those skills intact, he would be a most valued team player in the Koiyom Clinic. In the reality of his situation, Fidele was working as a home health care aid. This work enabled him to pay for his necessities of a simple life and enabled him to send about $1,200 to fifteen members of his immediate family currently relocated in Kampala Uganda. His contributions provide for their rent, food, school tuition fees, etc. While working Fidele continued to attend ECC city campus, taking as many credit hours as he could working on academic preparations for nursing. Because he already had debt from government student loans for his BA in psychology, no more money would be available for him to get yet another BA in nursing. After much prayer and discussion Fr. Ron contacted Sr. Denise Roche and Mr. Butch Murphy at D’Youville College, known as the best college for nursing degrees. Fr. Ron promoted Fidele, the Koiyom Clinic cause and how D’Youville could play an essential role in this life changing endeavor should they accept and hopefully provide for Fidele. It was advised and Fidele applied and was accepted on his own merits. Then came the miracle news on Friday, June 11th, 2010: “Fr. Ron…….I am happy to report to you, on behalf of Sr. Denise, that  the college will cover Fidele’s tuition expenses at the college.” The amount of school he will need will be four full time semesters which amounts to about a $40,000 scholarship award from D’Youville. Many thanks to Sr. Denise Roche, Mr. Butch Murphy and the D’Youville Community for their partnership in this endeavor. Fidele will continue to work part time to provide for some of his own needs. Reaching Out 2 Africa is looking for anyone who may wish to sponsor Fidele’s family while he engages in this two year intense full time educational program. We would like to continue to support his immediate family in Uganda with about $1,200 per month. This would be a great way to support Fidele, his family, and the Koiyom Clinic all at the same time. May the Lord bless all who have risen to assist our African sisters and brothers through this most worth while endeavor.


Madut 002.jpgIt wasn’t too long ago that a long awaited opportunity became a reality for long time parishioner of St. Martin de Porres, Akol Ayiy Madut. Akol, his wife and three children tried to escape the violence of the Civil War in the South by moving into Northern Sudan. Because of the harsh conditions along the way the family’s two daughters died. Trouble followed them and in order to provide for his family and keep them safe Akol separated himself from his now pregnant wife and his son Wol and secured a job in a laundry. Officers from the Northern Army brought uniforms to be cleaned which Akol took care of with all his skill. Returning time and time again the officers retrieved their cleaned uniforms and because Akol wished to be paid for his services they accused him of wanting to have trouble with the government. Government soldiers did arrive, found him, dragged him out of his lodgings, beat him severely, broke both of his legs and left him for dead. Days later a “Good Samaritan” aware that Akol was still alive, tried to assist him only to fear for his own safety because of his intervention. He took Akol to a local Catholic Priest who made splints for his broken legs and sent him for safety to another priest in Libya. Knowing he’d put his family in danger by returning to them, Akol knew that he should make his way to Egypt where he may be able to become a refugee and relocate somewhere else and send for his family to rejoin him. But with two broken legs, no money, and now stuck within yet another country how could this happen?

It was the time for Ramadan in the Muslim nation and Akol began to walk with crutches in order to keep his strength up. While walking outdoors near the priest’s home, wealthy Libyans saw this unfortunate man and in the spirit of Ramadan began to fill his pockets with donations. By the time his walk was complete he had enough funds to transport himself to Egypt. God is Good!! All the Time!!!! His case was processed quickly and in 1999 Akol found himself in Buffalo, NY.

101_0179.JPG I can remember when I first met Akol. He wanted to talk to me so very badly but the English language was so difficult for him. Over the course of two years he made contact with his family back in Sudan. Because it had been ten years since any of them heard any message from Akol whom they thought  was dead and couldn’t believe they were really speaking to him. In 2001 he began preparing a new apartment for himself  and family and asked for our assistance. This apartment was not only for him but for his wife and now two sons; one of whom he had never met. In December 2001, his wife and two boys, Wol and Madut were able to arrive in Buffalo and rejoin him. Still disabled due to his ordeal in Sudan, God has blessed Akol here in America. Being able to speak our language, membership at St. Martin de Porres, six additional children, completed associate degree at ECC, now a US Citizen, Akol has been blessed. Last year he made his way back to his homeland; the first time in twenty-four years. His family back home could not believe their eyes. His elderly Father, now very ill, has sent word for him to return quickly to the Sudan. We pray that God bless and protect his travel; that God bless and protect his family that remains here in USA. May God continue to guide and direct his life and the life of his family. Our prayers and support are with you Akol.


DSC02816.JPG While traveling in the Sudan last year, Fidele Dhan and Fr. Ron met many people and received an assortment of requests for assistance. At our last Reaching Out 2 Africa Advisory Board Meeting, the board approved the funding to support a local young people’s soccer team in the village area of Koiyom. The request was made by way of a hand written note and through a personal conversation. While the youngsters aimed high in their desires, wishing a stadium building, water wells near their site, etc., the board did agree to seek local funding to support twenty-four custom made uniforms for the team. Soccer shoes would be purchased in Uganda by Fidele. Many thanks to Gary Bichler and R&P Oak Hill Development, for their generous contribution that allowed Fidele to complete this task in Uganda & Sudan this summer. 


T-Shirt.JPGDSC02709.JPGTwenty-one year old,Jenaro Olwak Akin was welcomed onto the ROTA Advisory Board this past spring. Jenaro and his mom, members of the Shilluk tribe, along with his step dad and two brothers left Khartoum in the north of Sudan to travel to Cairo Egypt. Being nine years old at the time Jenaro did not fully understand why they had to move however many others were following the same path because able bodied young men  not unlike his stepfather, were being drafted into the military, trained and sent to eliminate peoples of their own tribe within the South of Sudan. After a time in Cairo they resettled here in  Buffalo, NY where at age eleven he began his schooling at school 45. It was at this international grade school that Jenaro learned the English language. Grover Cleveland High School and two years at Erie Community College would follow until now he has been accepted as a student into Canisius College in Buffalo. He will begin his studies this fall in Political Science. While yet in high school, Jenaro became a youth employee at St. Martin de Porres with the St. Joseph the Worker Youth Training Program sponsored by ROTA. A tragic house fire a few years ago sent the family to a hotel for a few days and ROTA worked on and accomplished some assistance by way of replacement windows for the family’s west side home. As a member of the ROTA board, Jenaro will be working on our PR projects. On Thursday, July 1st, 2010 Jenaro Olwak Akin became a citizen of the United States. Jenaro Olwak Akin has been busy with his new position on ROTA’s Advisory Board helping design and having ordered a quantity of black T-Shirts, Golf Shirts and Hats in order to promote our ministry at Reaching Out 2 Africa. For the T-Shirts Jenaro dialogued with Wol Ayiy, Akol Madut’s son who was graduating from Canisius College. QuadGear at Canisius College has taken charge of the printing order for the Ts. Other arrangements are being made for the Golf Shirts and Hats. They will be made available at all gatherings and at display opportunities. They look smart and are a great way to get the word out and support our ministry at the same time.


DSC02748.JPGDSC02711.JPG This year brought many happy times for former refugees as graduations took place. Victor Habasshuti, left, pictured here with his brother Eric, graduated from UB this year. Victor and his brother Eric are both survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Victor oftentimes is a guest speaker and shares the incredible story of he and his brother’s survival and their joining his uncle and aunt’s family. That family made their way for safety to Buffalo, NY and now are quite successful. Victor’s aunt and uncle are on ROTA’s advisory board. This year Wol Akol Ayiy also graduated from Canisius College. Wol, his brother Madut and his mom were reunited to his dad who made Buffalo his home. Graduating from ECC was SMDP Church Member, Aloor Arop, and Abuk Masham & Nyanlow Koul. Congratulations to one and all.


ROTA Friends 002.jpgThis 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 chef 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! 


This December members from St. Martin de Porres Generations Strong if Faith Program joined with a number of youngsters from Queen of Heaven Catholic School in West Seneca and provided a Holiday Party to children, youth and adults of refugee families new to the Buffalo area. Face painting, adult gift shopping area, children’s crafts and activity area, holiday story time, and different foods and treats greeted all our new neighbors who are refugees from around the whole world. Special thanks to Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement and our Reaching Out 2 Africa ministry that facilitated the event. A great time was had by all and our youth. They may not have been able to speak to each other in English but all the children could communicate lovingly together.






Rest in Peace

Kowat.Individual.jpg In Loving Memory of
Peter Kowat Abraham Rual
July 7th, 1993
June 8th, 2009

Your gentle  face  and  patient smile
With  sadness  we  recall.
You had  a kindly word for each and
died beloved by all. The voice is mute and stilled the heart that loved us well and true.
Ah, bitter was the trial to part from one
so good as you. You are not forgotten loved one, nor will you ever be. As long as life and memory last we will remember thee. We miss you now,
our hearts are sore. As time goes by
we miss you more. Your loving smile,
your gentle face. No one can take
your vacant place.

While Fr. Ron and Fidele Diing were in Washington, DC the week of June 8th, on Tuesday, June 9th Fr. Ron received a strange telephone call from Pastor Bob; a youth minister who works with West Side Buffalo area youth at Holy Cross Church. “Did you hear anything about Kowat?” Not knowing what this was all about I made further inquiries and then telephoned ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa’s executive director, Mrs. Joan Ersing. She returned my call after checking out the validity of the sad news that I had heard. Indeed, one of our Sudanese youth was tragically killed.

According to the Buffalo News Paper, Kowat’s body, who was in 9th grade at Lafayette High School, was found Tuesday, June 9th along the Buffalo River Ohio Street Fishing Access site and was ruled a homicide Wednesday following an autopsy in the Erie County medical examiner’s office. His naked body was found at the edge of the water at a canoe launch at about 11:45 a. m. Tuesday. It was determined that he died from strangulation and blunt force trauma, according to the autopsy report.

Kowat’s mom, Maria Agom and five of her youngest sons arrived as refugees from Sudan here in Buffalo back in 2000. His two older brothers work in the St. Joseph the Worker Youth Employment Program at St. Martin de Porres RC Church. He had just finished his first year of high school. In his homily at the Funeral Mass, Fr. Ron encouraged the Sudanese parents in attendance to be careful “what village is raising your child?” Special thanks to all who have made contributions for Kowat’s Funeral expenses.

Matilda Angelo.jpgIn Loving Memory of
Community Elder
Matilda Ojaba Angelo
January 1, 1955
June 17th, 2009

Just a few short days after the funeral for Peter Kowat Abraham Rual, we said goodbye to one of the Sudanese Community of Buffalo’s elder, Mother Matilda. She was greatly respected among all the Sudanese especially all the women. In 2001, the Office of Black Ministry and ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa was engaged in planning the first St. Josephine Bakhita Day Celebration for the Diocese of Buffalo. We had called together a group of younger women to speak to them about food, the Liturgy we’d celebrate etc. The question was put to us, “Did you check with mother Matilda?” The women informed us that we could do all the plans but none of the women would do anything if she did not give her approval of their activities with us. Thus did we Americans learn the great respect that people had for Matilda. The respect was not only for her age but the strength of her character that proved itself throughout her time in war torn Southern Sudan. We will miss you mother Matilda. God bless the wonderful family you are leaving behind as well.

Women Making A Difference in our World

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE   -  A significant part of “Humanitarian Assistance” for refugee families includes education. Not only does this include providing educational opportunities for particular refugee individuals and/or families but also multicultural educational opportunities for American families helping them raise awareness to the incredible stories of strength of character, will and survival of our new friends from around the world. Below is a story of one such unique opportunity. 

By Joan Ersing

Buffalo for Africa is a group of teachers and high school students from Frontier High School in Hamburg, NY, that are dedicated to raising awareness about genocide in Africa. On March 28th they held their First Annual Women’s Conference at Rich’s Atrium in Buffalo.

ROTA was invited to have a display table at the Conference. Denise Taylor, parishioner of St. Martin de Porres and member of ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa,  worked with me to provide information about the Sudan Clinic project to the Conference participants.

I was invited to give one of the workshop sessions entitled “African Women Making a Difference in the USA.” We were blessed to have three African women whom ROTA has worked with, form a panel for the session.

After a brief introduction about ROTA, the ladies shared their individual stories of why they left Africa and how their life is different today. Grace Sokiri, a Sudanese refugee, pictured here on the left,  told us how her family left war torn Sudan for Egypt and then arrived in ‘cold’ Buffalo in 1999. The 23 year old war has destroyed any hope of life in Sudan for families like theirs that were educated to be lawyers and teachers. Grace would like her children to be able to travel to Sudan some day to learn about their native culture and to see where their parents began their life.

Thamar Kabieysa, second from the right, pictured here with her friend Janine from Burundi, third from the right, told how she and her husband and their two nephews fled the genocide in Rhawanda to come to Buffalo in 1999. Their families were slaughtered and they escaped to begin a new life here in the US. The horrors of their experience of watching their families and their friends be killed, lives with them to this day. Thamar and her Burundi friend, Janine, who lives in Canada, shared with us a common passion for working for human rights. “Buffalo for Africa” is interested in working with these two brave women in promoting human rights.

Uzo Ifedigbo was the third member of our panel at the workshop. Uzo, first person from the right,  is Nigerian and lives here in Buffalo with her husband and their two children. She was educated in Nigeria and frequently returns home to visit her family. Although Uzo did not experience the tragedies that Grace and Thamar did, she is aware of the opportunities that life in the US provides for her as a woman and for her children.

The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness of the many different ‘women’ that are here in Buffalo who are making a difference. All of our panel members are striving to make a better life for themselves and their families while many of them still support family members still in Africa. They all continue to work towards raising awareness of the horrors of war and the genocide that continues today in our World.

One of the women that attended the session told us it was the ‘best talk she had heard all day!” Truly we were blessed to have these brave women share their stories and help us to realize that we are fortunate to have peace in our land. What a wonderful experience of connecting women in Buffalo with “Women Making a Difference” from the Motherland of Africa. We thank “Buffalo for Africa” for inviting ROTA and our African friends to share our story at their Women’s Conference.


(Click Humanitarian Assistance box to start the Slide Show)


Some of the direct service opportunities included:

  • American “Thanksgiving Meal” experiences for families.

  • Christmas parties for refugee children.

  • Uniting American and Refugee families for Christmas decorating and gift exchange.

  • Assisting with the first St. Josephine Bakhita celebrations in Buffalo.

  • Facilitating used bicycle collections, repair and donation to Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement.

  • Helping Americans to learn the story of many refugee families in Buffalo through

    • Printed means: Published Stories etc.

    • Personal Witness: at religious services, lecture series etc.

  • Giving lectures, workshops, and multi-cultural orientation sessions with youth and adults.

  • Legal Immigration support and advocacy.

We are often times an advocate for the life adjustment assistance to African refugees:

  • Apartment and household item assistance.

  • Direction to services when other service agencies are not available

  • Attend to pertinent needs of the local African refugee community

  • Faith sharing

  • Transportation concerns

  • Medical needs

  • Educational assistance

  • Enculturation issues