Lending a hand in Sudan

Christian Kochon spent his summer as a solidarity worker in the southern tip of Sudan, planting trees and living with 60 children at an orphanage. He learned about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while attending a student organization meeting at Lycoming College.

Sponsored by the Lycoming Environmental Awareness Foundation and Amnesty International, the meeting featured a guest speaker from New Community Project, a faith-based non-profit organization. NCP conducts Learning Tours in countries around the world in an effort to promote justice, peace and respect of the earth.

During his three-month stint in Nimule, Sudan, a bustling commercial area near the Ugandan border, Kochon participated in helping the country in its efforts to rebuild after a devastating decades-long civil war that left millions dead or displaced.

"It exceeded all of my expectations," said Kochon. "The people there are all very welcoming and very open to us. The kids at the orphanage have been through so much, but they still have a positive outlook on life and are so happy."

Besides serving as a temporary surrogate parent at the orphanage, his role included teaching English, grammar, comprehension and creative writing to students at Nile Progressive Secondary School. He also formed a girls' soccer team, gave lessons on a travel guitar he brought from home and even formed a drama program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he delivered and planted trees on behalf of the South Sudan Environmental Agency. He also worked with the Girl-Child Education and Development Association, which, among other things, sponsors scholarships for girls to attend school.

A native of Marlton, N.J., Kochon is in his senior year at Lycoming, where he is majoring in history and pursuing a minor in political science with a track in world politics. While in Sudan, he learned some Arabic as well two tribal languages - Madi and Achuli.

"It was the single-best experience of my life," Kochon said. "My affiliation with Lycoming gave me the opportunity to go to Sudan and work with several amazing programs and organizations."

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