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Customer Focus: Samaritan’s Purse

Giving families hope and belief through Christian mission work

Helping vulnerable people in remote areas is at the core of many relief organizations. It certainly is for Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in need as part of Christian missionary work. We spoke with Dorothy de Vuyst of Samaritan’s Purse. She tells us about her organization and what she has experienced on the road to faraway places.

Samaritan’s Purse Wants to Go to the Most Difficult Places
“We’re an organization that really wants to go to the most difficult places where the needs are the greatest.  I think that characterizes us,” says Dorothy de Vuyst, Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s regional director for Africa. “We’re a faith-based organization, and that continues to be a primary aspect of what we do. We firmly believe that helping people in difficult situations is not only addressing physical needs, but also spiritual ones.”

“People need God’s love,” Dorothy continues. “Especially in situations like Iraq, South Sudan, and the Congo. There is a belief within the organization that God’s love and peace are foundational to solving some of these conflict issues. That is the message that we bring as an organization.”

The story of Samaritan’s Purse began in 1970 with a vision “to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.” It was founded by American Baptist minister Bob Pierce, who twenty years earlier had established another faith-based relief organization, World Vision. In the decades to follow, Samaritan’s Purse has expanded their direct aid and program funding to more than 100 countries around the world, mostly in remote areas.

One of the most difficult places in which Samaritan's Purse has been involved is South Sudan. They've been in the country for almost 20 years, well before South Sudan became independent in 2011. Samaritan's Purse runs different water and sanitation programs there and supports local churches. Like many remote places, churches play a key role in communities, more than we see in the Western world.

It's an area of the world that has been in conflict for many decades. Before South Sudan and Sudan separated, the rift was mostly between the Muslims in the north and the Black Christians in the south. When South Sudan became its own independent country, the hope was that the conflict would end.

But what ended up developing was a new conflict, one very tribal in nature. South Sudanese people associate themselves more with their tribe than their country. Quickly, there became a rift between the president and the vice-president who are from different tribes. The president fired the vice-president, and after that, the respective tribes in the country took sides. This eventually deteriorated into a full-blown civil war which has been going on since December 2013. Currently, there are almost four million displaced persons, about half of those who still remain in South Sudan. "The work has become bigger and more complicated."

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan earlier this year. This was not because of the weather but because of the war. Samaritan's Purse has a base in the famine region. "We mobilized our teams and worked within the organization to distribute food and initiate other programs to help mitigate the effects of the famine, like water and sanitation programs. Access to clean water, especially for people who have been displaced, is a big issue. There have been outbreaks of cholera because people try to access swamp water.”

But Samaritan's Purse does not solely concentrate on short-term emergency work; sustainability is important as well. "We try to do as much training as possible to get people to help themselves in the face of the next conflict or displacement. We have been running a medical clinic there for a number of years. There is no health infrastructure; we're trying to improve that."

Earlier this year, Dorothy was in South Sudan visiting projects. She encountered a family there that will remain in her memory. "I met this one family with a husband and two wives and with about seventeen children. In South Sudan, having multiple wives is very common, so families often have a lot of kids. And a lot of mouths to feed. They stood there in front of their little hut, having just received a big bag of maize from Samaritan's Purse."

It was the only food this family had, and they didn’t know where they were going to get their next meal from once the maize ran out. Additionally, they had to walk several hours to get water and could only go by night due to nearby conflict and to avoid being spotted. "Coming face-to-face with individuals that are living life like that just really inspires and motivates me to continue to persevere in our programming. Not only in trying to motivate local churches and other leaders to demonstrate peace, but also knowing that this bag of maize gave that family something to believe in, some hope. We pray it will keep them going. Largely that is what our programs do; they give people hope and keep them going. We’ll keep doing that as long as we have the resources to do that."

We regularly arrange travel for compassionate, faith-based, humanitarian organizations who are dedicated to helping those in need of aid in the most remote areas on Earth. Never hesitate to contact us through our quick address locator should you have any questions. We’re proud to serve Samaritan's Purse or any faith-based organization which is willing to help people anywhere in the world.

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