Sudanese turn to private groups in effort for center

Area Sudanese are reaching out to local organizations and residents to help make a Sudanese community center a reality.

Chief Brown Bol of the Southern Sudanese Community in Mower County, a local group dedicated to Sudanese advocacy, said he hopes to bring more awareness to the issue.

“We are hoping to meet with others to help start our community center,” he said.

Sudanese residents have discussed starting a potential community center for the past several years to help area refugees navigate life in Austin. While some organizations like Austin Public Schools have worked with Sudanese parents on educational issues, cultural gaps in understanding have been difficult for some families to cross.

Since then, the Sudanese have reached out to local and state government officials to garner support for a center but have learned getting a building of their own could be difficult to accomplish through public funding. That hasn’t stopped Bol and other volunteers, however, as they hope to privately raise funds for the center.

In addition, Bol acknowledged the South Sudanese Civil War has caused issues for Sudanese in the U.S., who now must watch the newest country in the world become divided after decades of struggling against the northern part of Sudan.

Tensions in South Sudan have built over the past few years as South Sudanese President Salva Kiir dismissed and replaced numerous government officials.

In December of 2013, Kiir accused former South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup after a shooting took place in the military barracks of the Presidential Guard.

Though Machar denied the allegations, the two sides fragmented into a civil war that has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded. Many experts dismiss the notion that the war is based on tribal conflicts, though Kiir and Machar are from different tribes.

Bol said the Southern Sudanese Community in Mower County is working to ease any leftover tribal tensions among area Sudanese.

“We have that on our agenda as well,” he said.

Residents interested in contributing to or learning more about the Southern Sudanese Community in Mower County can contact Bol at 651-275-5074 or at P.O. Box 86 in Austin.

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