Denise Pelley, a volunteer with Canadian Aid for South Sudan, hugs a baby named after Lucy Ogletree, who has travelled with CASS to South Sudan for many years. (Jane Roy file photo)


As South Sudan falls deeper into crisis, it’s more important than ever to help, says the head of a London agency that’s been on the ground in the country for decades.

Yet there’s a tendency among Western countries to give up on the country now, said Glen Pearson, co-founder of London-based Canadian Aid for Southern Sudan (CASS).

“A lot of people say, ‘Forget it. It’s hopeless.’ It is much harder to raise funds than in the past,” he said.

“That makes this concert far more important.”

CASS is holding its annual fund­raising concert Sunday at Wesley-Knox United Church. About two months later, about 10 Londoners will head back to the same village and rural area they have long supported.

The village of Gordhim in Aweil East and the surrounding rural area are not riddled by the violence that has devastated other areas of South Sudan and created a refugee crisis and famine, Pearson said

“But nobody can afford the food. They can’t get food in,” he said.

That in turn has hurt the ability of female leaders at the centre of several CASS efforts to continue working on the projects, he said.

A women’s centre, a local high school built by Londoners’ funds, and micro-enterprises all rely on the women, who have to spend more time finding food.

On last year’s trip, two CASS volunteers asked the leaders of the area if they’d rather CASS stop sending people from Canada, and instead send the money that would have been spent on airfare.

The reaction was a surprise.

“They wondered if we were hinting that we were going to stop coming,” Pearson said.

There’s a fear in the area that London and Canada will give up helping, because of all the troubles, he said. “The women leaders said, ‘You have to come. The connection is what matters.’ ”

Three members of the Sisters of St. Joseph — which has been helping CASS for several years — are joining this year’s journey, planned as usual for the dry season in January.

Also going are a mother and teen daughter, as well as some regulars, like singer Denise Pelley.

Pelley is one of the performers at Sunday’s concert, which also features Saidat, Doug Varty, Jessie Nestor, the Banting Chamber Choir, Medway Madrigal Singers, Mountsfield Primary Choir and Sudan Concert Trio.

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What: Concert for Sudan

When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin St., London

Admission: Freewill offering


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