A former-Charlotte family running an orphanage in war-torn South Sudan is now safe in Kenya.
Brad and Kim Campbell, along with two of their daughters, caught the last-available flight from Malakal, South Sudan to Juba on Friday -- where they spent the night until boarding a commercial flight for Nairobi, Kenya, early Saturday morning. The United States has urged all American citizens to evacuate South Sudan – and the Defense Department recently flew out about 20 embassy workers.
The U.S. Embassy will no longer be able to provide any consular services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan as of Jan. 4.
For the Campbells, they leave South Sudan with heavy hearts as they leave behind ten orphans who they've been raising as their own.
The Campbells are funded by a Fort Mill organization called Keeping Hope Alive, and it’s President, Freddie Power, has been in contact with the family.
“Kim was in tears because she had to leave the children,” Power said. “But that was the last U.S. embassy plane flying out (to Juba) and so they had to catch it…they think they’ve done everything they can possibly do but when you leave a baby behind, that’s devastating – when you know you can’t get (the children) out…that’s just so hard for you emotionally.”
The orphans will be with friends of the Campbells at a United Nations peacekeeping base in Malakal – just four miles from the orphanage where up to 22,000 people are estimated to be taking shelter. The Campbells made numerous attempts to bring the orphans out of Malakal – but were unable to get the proper clearance.
“They went to the governor of Malakal and he saw who they were, slammed the door and said, ‘No, you’re not taking the children,’” Power said. “And so that was their final thing – they knew they couldn’t get the kids out unless they had his approval. That’s why they left.”
When the Campbells realized they were not going to be able to get the orphans out of Malakal, they decided they could do more good for the children outside of South Sudan than inside of it.
Brad’s mother, Joan Campbell, says her son and his family will be fueling up on food, supplies, energy – and have every intention of going back to South Sudan to finish what they’ve started at the orphanage.
As a mother, knowing her son and his family have been serving in the middle of war has been hard to deal with, but she understands it is where Brad and his family feel they are supposed to be – serving in South Sudan.
“Every time I talk to Brad (up until the fighting broke out) I’ve never heard him so upbeat and happy because they felt that this is where they belonged,” Campbell said. “This is where they were supposed to be and they were doing what they were supposed to do.
“So what mother could ask for anything more than for her child to be happy?”
The Campbells had evacuated their orphanage on Christmas Day, amid gunshots and civil war happening, literally, in their front yard, to the U.N. peacekeeping base in Malakal. There, food was scarce – Dixie-cup sized portions of rice a day, for those lucky enough to eat.
In 2012, Brad came down with cerebral malaria and Joan was scared for her son’s life. Even through the health hardships, the Campbells knew they were where they were supposed to be – and Campbell says it’s just a matter of time before they get back to Malakal.
“The last time I talked to [Kim], the last thing she said to me was ‘We are not walking away from this. We are not done yet – we’re not done yet.’ So they’re going to get busy and start trying to purchase whatever supplies – food, clothing and they’re going to find a way, I know they’ll find a way, to get it to the kids they had to leave behind in Malakal.
“They tried so hard. They tried absolutely everything (to get the orphans out). It’s heartbreaking…the paperwork just wasn’t there and without the appropriate paperwork you just can’t do it.”
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