A former-Charlotte family running an orphanage in war-torn South Sudan is now safe in Kenya and using their resources to help the 10 orphans they left behind.
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 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, but determined hearts.
“We are trying to network with some organizations to see what type of relief can be brought in and how to get things done for Malakal – and not just for Malakal but other places as well,” Brad Campbell said. “We really needed to be in a place where we’ve got decant communication and we’ve got access to funding and access to other organizations.”
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 30,000 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,’” Freddie Power, President of Keeping Hope Alive Ministries, the group that funds the Campbells, 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. Keeping Hope Alive has raised over $7,000 for the Campbells in the last week. With South Sudan being labeled a threat for terrorism, it’s impossible for friends and family to transfer money in. Now being in Kenya, the Campbells can use their funding in preparation for the orphans.
The Campbells 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.
“It’s the only home that we have,” Campbell said. “We don’t have a home in the U.S. We don’t have a home in Kenya or anywhere else. Our only home that we have is in South Sudan. Right now that home is sitting empty and we’re not sure the fate of it at this point but that’s the only home we’ve got…That’s our main goal – how can we get back there and how can we help stabilize a really difficult situation?”
Brad's mother, Joan Campbell, says that 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," Joan 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.
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