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They told us our war would come, and we would instead be
fighting for education and rights for our people, particularly the children
Okay, Tweed Heads to Sydney isn't a regular walk. It's a serious hike
down a large section of Australia's eastern seaboard.
But for Sydney TAFE Community Studies student Zacharia Machiek, the
40-day, 800+ km journey is still almost a leisurely stroll compared to
his life journey so far, much of which has been mired in trauma and violence.
Growing up in war-torn Sudan in the 1980s, Zacharia was one of 20,000
young boys who were separated from their families and villages,
fleeing to escape the atrocities being carried out by the military
from the north. These "lost boys of Sudan" fled to the
relative safety of Ethiopia, trekking as much as 1,600kms on foot and
facing the dangers of wild animals and insurgents along the way.
It was the Sudan People's Liberation Army that offered Zacharia
safety and redemption, telling him that this wasn't his war to fight.
It also offered him a clue to his future. "They told us our war
would come, and we would instead be fighting for education and rights
for our people, particularly the children," he said.
Many years later, living in Australia, married with two children of
his own, Zacharia hasn't forgotten that message. And pursuing an
education at Sydney TAFE, the words resonate all the more powerfully.
And so was born his vision of building a primary school in his South
Sudan village. But he couldn't do it alone. So he turned to his TAFE
teacher in Foundation Studies at Ultimo, Janet Dyne.
"Zacharia was my student at the time and he asked for my help
with the paperwork to set up the Sudan Orphan Education Support (now
the South Sudan Orphan Education Support," explains Janet.
"We had lots of fundraising activities like morning teas, raffles
and concerts, mostly on campus at Ultimo TAFE. But we knew we really
had to ramp up the fundraising if the school in the village was ever
going to become a reality. So that's how we came up with Hope Road:
Walk for South Sudan."
Zacharia hopes that the much-publicised 800+ km journey will give a
huge boost to the fundraising efforts so far. In total, Zacharia hopes
to raise $300,000. However, it is anticipated that the first stage of
the school, for grades one, two and three will open next year at a
cost of $60,000, and this is the more modest target of the Hope Road
Walk and follow up events for this year. Word has already spread to
his home village where locals are doing their own bit – making
thousands of clay bricks by hand, ready to be mobilized for use in
construction of the school buildings.
The Walk for South Sudan finally drew to a triumphant close on Sunday
27 July. Zacharia was greeted at Milsons Point by a crowd of
supporters, including members of the local South Sudanese community
who sang and danced together against a spectacular harbour backdrop.
Many of the supporters accompanied the Hope Road walkers across the
bridge, along the Cahill Expressway and through the Botanical Gardens
to Cathedral Square. Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia, met
with them and addressed the gathering in an inspiring conclusion to
the six week fundraising journey.
Zacharia appreciates full well the importance of education and how it
can empower people and turn lives around. This is especially true of
girls and women, who have even less access to proper education than
many of their male counterparts. For this reason, the school in the
village will be mostly for girls, a request made by the villagers themselves.
"It's about giving the children knowledge and power to help
themselves," Zacharia said. "If we'd had education, we'd
never have had a civil war that killed millions."
The project is supported by the Rotary Club of Sydney and all
donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Donations can be made at www.ssoe.org.au or you can message
Zacharia at www.facebook.com/HopeRoadProject/.
The following is an excerpt from a documentary video by filmmaker Tom
Zubrycki, who has followed the entire project since day one. The
footage shows Zacharia returning to his home village in South Sudan
for the first time in 25 years to kick start the project and the
greeting the villagers give him.
"Back to Ground
Zero" from Tom
Zubrycki on Vimeo.