During the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony in July, a few Olympians walked independent of flag or country. One of those athletes was Guor Marial, from South Sudan. According to an article in Time, Marial is a refugee from the Sudanese civil war, and he has lived in the U.S. since 2001. The Republic of South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July, 2011, but since Marial has been in the United States for the past 11 years, he has neither citizenship nor a passport from South Sudan. Still, he ran for his home land.
Rasmussen College Library & Learning Resources has a deep and abiding connection to the South Sudan people through our work with PACODES, Panyijiar Community Development Services. PACODES was started by several lost boys who, like Marial, were refugees of the Sudanese civil war. As adults, these lost boys wanted to give back to their home community by building the first library in Panyijiar, Southern Sudan, a county of 120,000 people, one percent of who are literate.
Rasmussen College’s efforts, spearheaded by our National Online Librarian and PACODES board member BethMarie Gooding, include fundraising and book donations. If you donated a book at one of the college’s campuses or central office, it was most likely sent to Better World Books. The funds raised from re-sale were then used for the PACODES Library project. Better World Books also made a direct donation of 20,000 books, which are now in Southern Sudan.
The library structure is 90% complete; the remainder of which will be built after the rainy season. PACODES is still accepting donations to help get materials cataloged and organized and to hire and train a librarian and library assistant. Rasmussen College will continue to support PACODES with fundraising and book collection until the project is fully funded. For more information, or to donate, please visit www.pacodes.org.
How do refugee athletes achieve the status of Olympian? How is a library in a new country born? The answers are not dissimilar: hope, endurance, and the support of a community of people who believe that goodwill and peace are catalysts for change.