From Big Kenny Interview: The First Trip -- Impressions of Akon, SUDAN 2007

Love Everybody has helped with the facilitation of the Konyok School for Girls in Akon, Sudan. The school currently has 550+ students enrolled. Love Everybody's goal is to instill hope, strength, and excellence to all students who attend so they can prosper in life. Their motto: "Highlight the good, inspire greatness, and encourage mutual responsibility for the betterment of humankind. -- Love Everybody." Member of the Tennessee Global Health Coalition.

August 26, 2009

So, two years ago; October of 2007, my wife and I and several friends from the organization My Sister's Keeper from Boston and Dr. David Marks and Walt Ratterman from Sun Energy Power decided we were going to get together and go into the country of Sudan.  We went there and visited this village, which is basically a refugee camp right in southern Sudan, about 50 kilometers from the line of demarcation between there and Darfur.  So this is an area that people had fled into that had been pushed off of their land.  Like farmers.  My dad's a farmer, and I guess that's why it hits with me. 

They'd just been pushed off their land that they had fought for over a half a century.  This thing's been going on in Sudan since 1956, a full on by God civil war.  And then in 2005, the south of Sudan and the north entered into what was called the CPA, or the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was mentored and led by the U.S.  It's a good thing.  And they've been trying to keep that peace, and that's when the north started trying to push against the west of Sudan and push all the Darfurians out also.

And it's crazy to think that a person that lives over there and a person that lives over here, that there's any difference between them and that they shouldn't respect each other.  And so we decided after seeing this and going and visiting this village that Dr. Gloria Hammond from Boston had originally told me about.  I met her here in Nashville at an event where she was speaking, and she told me about the people in Akon and how we were both in this conundrum: there's a war going on where these people are being tormented and hurt so bad.  But you know, I'm a musician.  I can't go into a war zone.  She's a minister and a "nun", a sister and a doctor and an educator.  You don't put women in a war zone.  But get as close as you can to it and shine as bright of a light as you can possibly shine, and all that other stuff just has to go away, or at least stand on the sidelines and chill out for a while and see what happens when three, four, five, six, seven, eight, 900, 1000 girls are meeting underneath of a tree to get educated, to get an education, because they know that they can rise up and lead their people and lead their country and there can be peace.  And they can be friends with everybody, everywhere, and make music.

At the same time, you know, we got do what I call "due diligence."  I went in to make sure that the people that I had met and had organized with on the ground were really doing what they told me they were doing cause I didn't want to go; you know, I've worked real hard to get what I had, and I didn't want to blow it, you know, and end up being in some corrupt system somewhere where people are just pulling off the top. To me, it's easy enough to grow food and provide for your family.  You know, when you're going to step outside of that to try to take care of some other things, that's when it can get real tough.  But you know, if you use your noggin a little bit, go check it out, do your due diligence. 

Well, that's what we did.  We went in there, checked it out, and did our due diligence. So then, I mean, just so many amazing things happened.  The first plane we flew on, the cowling came off the left engine, and it was pulling that plane hard left.  Fortunately, we'd only been up in the air about 15 minutes, so we were able to circle back around, and there was another runway just outside of Nairobi at Wilson Airport.  We landed there, and ended up the only plane that we could get was a bigger plane, and they had to give it to us for the same price.  So we were able to carry in all the crates and all the people that we were carrying then, plus we picked up 300 refugee survival kits.  These are people who have been burned out of their homes, and this is enough to keep them alive for a little while until they can get somewhere or get to a village and get their feet back under them.

We flew to Akon. Dr. Marks saw about 300 patients in two days.  About a third of the people had malaria at that point, so he was just delving out all these pharmaceuticals that we had brought over with us in 21 cases that we carried through airports. 

So we move forward a couple years.  We go back there this year, right where I saw people take those refugee kits and start to establish themselves. Here's a doctor's clinic over here.  Here's a runway right here.  Something's got to keep happening here.  And kind of right in between them there's now a little village that exists, when there was nothing when we went there the first time.

At least I've got you up to now now.

More to come...