(2009) Just when we at ROTA thought we could relax a bit having finished our work with the “Evarist House” Dormitory project, the “Share the Well” project and general support of the St. Charles Lwanga BTI, we were visited by our good friend and “Lost Boy of Sudan” Fidele Dhan. It was in the fall of 2006 that Fidele returned home for a reunion with his family; the first time in nineteen years. We shared the tragic events of the bus crash and the death of his brother after just ten days of reunion. Well he continued his journey. 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. This began a pre-occupation that would become 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.
Returning to Buffalo “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 on 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. 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 the 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. 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. These “Young Christians” had raised their $35,000 goal. What an incredible miracle.
With this success in hand communication with the Village of Koiyom began and a ground breaking date was set. In April of 2009, Fr. Ron and Fidele Dhan made their way into Sudan, traveling north to the Village of Koiyom for a special ground breaking ceremony.