Prompted by a religion class assignment, a 2006 alumnus' vision to establish the first library in Panyijiar is now a reality.
It’s one done but more to go for development in Panyijiar, an impoverished, war-ravaged village in South Sudan. The region was once home to many Lost Boys of Sudan who eventually found their way to Fargo-Moorhead and Concordia College.
After a six-year effort, a library has opened as a first step in bringing literacy and hope to people.
The library is the vision of PACODES. The nonprofit organization strives to improve the lives of people in Panyijiar County and was founded in 2006 by former Lost Boys and several faculty on campus.
Machien Justin Luoi ’06 conceived the idea in Dr. Roy Hammerling’s religion class. Since Luoi’s graduation, more than $100,000 has been raised to build the library and stock it with 20,000 books. The library has become the community center of Panyijiar, in addition to functioning as a school and a resource for medical personnel and local government.
Luoi recently attended an on-campus celebration in honor of the library’s opening.
“PACODES was born among us Lost Boys to find a way to help back home,” says Luoi. “We decided to first give them books so they can learn, then we will do whatever we can to help change lives. There’s been too much suffering in this part of the world. This library will help people fix their own problems.”
Luoi believes PACODES is a success because of the support given by Concordia faculty and students. That support spread into the Fargo-Moorhead community.
“Without Concordia, this library wouldn’t have been possible,” he says.
A secondary school and a technical school are the next projects that Lost Boys like Luoi and Gat-Kier Machar, a security officer at Concordia, would like to undertake. Panyijiar is in the poorest region of South Sudan, where 98 percent of people are illiterate.
“People need to have education and learn skills like carpentry so they can work and get things done,” says Machar. “Life is tough in this part of the world. It’s not that they aren’t able to help themselves. They just don’t have the resources or the necessary skills.”
Luoi hopes PACODES can help make more dreams come true for people in South Sudan.
“Now that we’ve learned how to do these projects, I want to do more,” he says. “We want to help people improve their lives.”