“The Village”: A Look at Life in South Sudan

By Jon Waterhouse, National Geographic Fellow

Photo of the author, Jon Waterhouse, courtesy Mary Marshall.

I consider myself very fortunate to be involved with the Alaska Sudan Medical Project. Working with this amazing group of volunteers for the past few years has been an eye-opening and challenging experience.

This group was formed in 2007 when Dr. Jack Hickel from Anchorage saw for himself the extent of the medical need in Old Fangak in what would become South Sudan, and decided that Alaskans could help the people in this community a world away through aid in the construction of  a health center, wells, and a latrine.

Throughout the new year, I’m looking forward to rejoining the crew and the villagers in Old Fangak, which I’ve written about in earlier Healing Journey posts.

The Work Is Just Beginning
South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is also a country with the greatest of needs. Now that independence has been achieved, the real work begins. As a quick review of history shows, building a country is a long process and the hurdles can be staggering. Fortunately, through the kindness of several determined Alaskans, the work is being helped along, slowly but steadily.

The video above will introduce you to a portion of this group of volunteers who have crossed the globe to join people and cultures, working side by side as they build a better future for the people of the new South Sudan. As the filmmaker Todd Hardesty put it, “By joining with their community, they know that the people of Alaska care.”

It seems to me that this is a good time of year to reflect on what we have, and on what we can achieve.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Jon Waterhouse’s destiny was foretold the moment he pushed his canoe off the bank of the Yukon River and started to paddle. That incredible 2007 canoe trip, which he christened “the Healing Journey,” began with a simple request by the native elders and tribal leaders living in the Yukon River watershed to "go out, take the pulse of the river." Waterhouse’s journey raised awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship, combined traditional native knowledge with modern science, and helped rebuild intimate connections between Yukon communities and the natural world. The journey soon stretched far beyond the Yukon and led the Native American down rivers and through cultures in distant parts of South America, Russia, Greenland, Africa, and New Zealand.