Over the years, a lot has been made of the work Jane and I have undertaken in Sudan. Repeatedly the stories return to the difference one or two people can make in even the most impossible of situations. I believe that fully, and not just because of the good fortune we’ve been able to find in our overseas work. There are so many individual Canadians who have played their own important roles in south Sudan ultimate climb to independence.
People like Melanie Schnell. She phoned us one day from Saskatchewan in 2002, saying she was interested in the happenings in Sudan and wondering what she could do to assist as a means of getting some background for a book she wished to write. We informed her that we were only volunteers, but that if she was willing to head over there on her own dime we could easily find some vital things for her to do.
Little did we know he dedicated she would become to the Dinka people of south Sudan. She volunteered for our organization – Canadian Aid For Southern Sudan – helping with logistics, building schools, and maintaining our contacts there. In the end she spent a year in the region and, just like many of us, found that the southern people had a unique way of building deep respect in the hearts of those working with them. Melanie was never to forget it.
She returned to Canada and began working in the field of journalism, while she worked on her fiction novel, largely propelled by her experiences. It’s about two women – one Sudanese, the other Canadian – whose paths cross in a way that would alter both their lives for the duration. In a world plagued by slavery, violation, war and destitution, both women discover personal redemption and profound hope, in a twist of circumstances that only Sudan itself could produce.
Melanie’s book has been published by Freehand Books and is titled While The Sun Is Above Us. It’s her first published work and in the words of one reviewer it is “ultimately alive with hope.” She visits London today on her book tour, reading from her work at the Aeolian Hall, starting at 7 p.m. Claire Danaher will be providing the special music and the media will be present.
In a wonderful happenstance, today is the first anniversary of south Sudan’s emergence as the world’s newest nation. Despite a turbulent year of ups and downs, it is nevertheless a season of hope and opportunity for the women of Sudan – a wonderful backdrop for the lessons unveiled in Melanie’s moving book. She is a new author who is writing from a deeply personal place the lies someplace outside of her, in a world far away. She’s a remarkable woman, someone well worth meeting. For those of you in the London area, please come out tonight and hear the wonders and challenges of Sudan as only she can tell them – all with the backdrop of Claire’s haunting vocals. If you have any questions, just call 519-679-1429.
Where – Aeloian Hall – 795 Dundas St. E.
When – 7 p.m.