Lincoln has a long track record of helping South Sudanese refugees, and this fall, that tradition will continue when the town hosts the Saturday Bridges Program run by the South Sudanese Enrichment for Families (SSEF).
The Saturday program, which previously has been held in Arlington and Malden, has several components. There will be workshops for adults on writing and financial literacy, as well as an infant/preschool babysitting program. At the same time, older children can participate in a program at Drumlin Farm (or in the Brooks gym in case of rain). The workshops and babysitting take place in Pods A and B on the Hartwell campus on October 14, 21 and 28, November 4 and 18, and December 2 from 1:30–5:30 p.m.
Adult and teenage volunteers are needed to help with the infant/preschool babysitting and the Drumlin Farm program under the supervision of program adults. The training will be on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the home of SSEF executive director and president Susan Winship at 10 Meadowdam Rd. in Lincoln. Anyone interested in learning more or helping out should contact her at 781-424-8774 or SusanWinship@comcast.net.
Winship is one of those who helped resettle 150 “lost boys” in the Boston area starting in 2000 in the wake of the 22-year civil war in Sudan. Boys who were several miles away from their villages during the day returned to find their homes under attack or destroyed. Groups of homeless and often orphaned children (mostly boys) walked hundreds of miles to arrive in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, where they lived for several years before emigrating to the United States.
Lincoln has many connections to the “lost boys.” For a time, three of them lived at Codman Community Farms and attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. There are currently two Sudanese families living in Lincoln, including the family of Akuot Deng Leek, the SSEF’s community liaison who matches clients with agencies and services in the Boston area. Carolyn Montie of Lincoln is SSEF’s administrative assistant, and her daughter Eve (now a college sophomore) was a long-time volunteer in the Saturday Bridges Program.
For 12 years, Winship headed the Sudanese Education Fund, which helped pay education costs for the “lost boys.” Those boys grew up, and many returned to Sudan to marry and then and came back to the U.S. The organization was consequently renamed the South Sudanese Enrichment for Families to reflect its expanded mission to assist South Sudanese women and their children.
Most of these women got less education in Africa than the men, and taking classes here is harder since they care for their children while their husbands work. In addition to workshops and tutoring and acting as a social hub for the community, the SSEF offers help with housing, preschool scholarships and summer camp opportunities.
“When you resettle refugees, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Their needs go on and on as they assimilate to a new culture and raise their children,” Winship said. “We really feel strongly that part of our mission is to have the current and next generation as self-sufficient as possible.”