The spicy scent of chili at Upper Arlington High School March 1 marked the fourth annual S4SS (Strides for South Sudan) Chili Cook-Off, as global history classes continue to help a struggling medical clinic in Africa.
Social studies teacher Mark Boesch said the event was part of continuing fundraising efforts to support a service-learning project begun in 2009 by the freshman class.
"The thought behind this project was to connect my global history classes with the world outside Upper Arlington," he said. "When we had the opportunity to meet two Lost Boys of Sudan, it seemed like an excellent and incredible opportunity."
Bol Aweng and Jok Dau, now adults, are those two "Lost Boys of Sudan." The name was given by refugee camp workers to groups of more than 20,000 orphaned or displaced boys during the second Sudanese Civil War.
Aweng and Dau fled their village in 1987 when it was bombed and burned by government troops and walked more than 1,000 miles to Ethiopia, according to information supplied by Aweng at southsudanclinic.org.
The boys were able to resettle in the United States through federal resettlement options for Sudanese boys and girls in 2001. Both graduated from Ohio State University in 2009.
A small medical clinic was built that year by CARE International in their home village of Piol.
Aweng was scheduled to attend the Chili-Cookoff and will talk about the needs of his village at a March 17 event at Upper Arlington High School.
"The clinic was a definite need for the community in the aftermath of the 25-year civil war," Boesch said. "The first year, we raised $14,000 and purchased solar panels and a cold storage unit; in subsequent years, we purchased medical supplies and helped to finance the construction of a maternity clinic."
So far, the school has raised more than $50,000, but more is needed to fund additional supplies for the maternity clinic.
With one in 10 children dying at birth in South Sudan and acute malnutrition affecting 32 percent of children younger than 5, more medical supplies are urgently needed, Aweng wrote on the clinic website.
Club Sudan was created at the UAHS about a year after the project began, said senior Grace Saalman. The club has about 40 members who meet at 7:30 a.m. each Friday.
"My favorite aspect of this project is that our efforts have clear and speedy results," she said. "It is humbling to know that a group of students halfway around the world have the opportunity to help pregnant women and their children who do not have the same access to healthcare.
"I love watching the project grow under the efforts of excited students who can look at pictures of the vaccines, solar panels and other things they raised money for only months before," she said.
The club will hold its largest fundraising event -- a Strides for South Sudan Walk-a-thon -- at 9 a.m. May 3 at the Jones Middle School stadium, 2100 Arlington Ave., Upper Arlington.
"The 5K walk represents the thousand-mile trek of the Lost Boys of Sudan as they escaped their country to refugee camps," Saalman said.
She said Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church began the project. Donations may be made online at southsudanclinic.org.
Checks also may be sent to UAHS, 1650 Ridgeview Road, Upper Arlington, Ohio 43220, to the attention of Mark Boesch.
Boesch said the project gives students "a real life world experience."
"Students become engaged with a project in which they take ownership," he said. "It is a lifetime memory."
He said students also learn to use their talents in authentic and meaningful ways.
"They use math skills when creating a 3-D visual of the clinic, writing skills when they create brochures for fundraising and critical thinking when they connect enlightenment ideals to the new government in South Sudan," he said.