From South Sudan refugee camps to glitzy London media awards night

Published 15 October 2012  |  
Sitting in the Christian Broadcasting Council Awards night at the exclusive Tower Hotel in London, seeing footage of my CBN Report being nominated for an award, couldn't have been more far removed from the place I'd filmed this story five months earlier at refugee camps in South Sudan.

Seeing clips of my CBN report "South Sudan Refugees Struggling Spiritually, Physically," on a large video screen at the CBC Media Awards was very humbling and brought back memories of the desperate need I'd seen first hand on this reporting trip back in May.

I was travelling with Samaritan's Purse to report on how they're charity was responding to help meet the needs of more than 150,000 refugees who'd fled for their lives from Sudan.

As our small 12 seater plane touched down on the dirt land strip in the middle of the remote Doro refugee camp in Mbane State in North East, South Sudan, I had mixed feelings of fear and excitement of what I would see and experience during the next 5 days.

Just before landing I was struck by how barren this area was, the sheer size of this refugee camp, which was home to more than 50,000 refugees and wondered how on earth these displaced civilians had walked for days through this desolate land.

Later that day I heard the remarkable story that could've come straight out of an action film, when David Phillips country director for Samaritan's Purse in South Sudan told me how they discovered some of the very first refugees last year.

In August 2011, David was taken by plane to a remote land strip and with the sounds of bombs dropping in the distance; he pulled off on a quad bike into the swamps and five hours later found 2,000 refugees, who were sleeping under the trees. He said they were digging roots off the ground and pulling leaves of the trees for food.

So because the area was so remote they then dug up a drop zone for aeroplanes to drop food packages and David had to stay for another four weeks living on meagre rations along with these newly found refugees until he could be flown back.

On our final morning at Doro I was overwhelmed with emotion as we attended one of several worship services taking place every Sunday morning at these refugee camps. Under the shade of a tree more than 300 men, women and children proceed into the church area where they sit on logs. Very few have Bibles and there are no musical instruments as the choir sings. But as they start to sing hymns I recognise in their own language I'm deeply moved to be part of this amazing moment. I desperately tried to compose my emotions to film my piece to camera for my CBN Report. It's a moment that regularly stays in my mind.

Two days later we leave Doro, to fly to Yida refugee camp, where more than 30,000 displaced civilians have fled the Nuba Mountains. I'm told the Nuban people are very respectful, hard working and well organised, which is clearly evident as I walk around the camp to see they've even set up their own market place and some resourceful families are planting crops in their small compounds.

As we're being taken around Yida I'm asked if I want to see the un-detonated bomb that sits under a tree on the edge of the camp. I'm told the miraculous story of how this bomb was intended to hit a school, but amazingly it hit a tree before landing, which prevented it from exploding, but still sits there as a stark reminder of the dangers these people have faced.

Hundreds of malnourished children are also brought to the Samaritan's Purse nutrition centre, where many times these young lives are being saved. We see babies and infants looking lethargic and some looking very frail. But then we're told the story of little Tabitha, who was brought to the clinic by her mother just two weeks ago with pneumonia and malaria. But after receiving treatment and being fed nutrients, she is now healthy again playing and running around.

This moves me so much to see first hand that despite all of the suffering and sadness, Samaritan's Purse is providing such life-saving treatment.

So as our plane takes off from the dirt runway at Yida refugee camp and we begin our long journey back to the UK I leave both heart-broken and inspired by what I've seen.

Five months later after footage of my CBN Report finishes playing at the CBC Media Awards, Christian comedian Tim Vine and present for the evening announces that I've won the Highly Commended Award for Best Broadcast TV Programme.

I felt very moved as so many of my media colleagues I've gotten to know over the years came up to me to congratulate me after I received my award, but still feel inspired and humbled to have seen how the Samaritan's Purse team are many miles who continue serving as the real unsung heroes in South Sudan.

To see this report go to: www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2012/May/South-Sudan-Refugees-Struggling-Spiritually-Physically/

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