Slovaks show interest in Sudanese plight
Mr Marian Caucik is the chairman of Movement of Christian
Children Communities (ERKO), a Slovak NGO which funds projects in
Africa. He recently (March 20-25, 1998) conducted a five-day
feasibility study in Sudan where his organisation intends to get
involved. Charles Omondi interviewed him in Nairobi.
What is your background and that of your organisation
I was born 32 years ago in Slovakia, in central Europe. Slovakia
was created following the division of the former Czechoslovakia.
I am a founder member and current chairman of the
Non-Governmental Organisation Movement of Christian Children
Communities (ERKO). Erko was officially launched in 1990. We were
working with children under the communist regime but such
activities were not legalised then and we had to operate
At Erko, we try to encourage the youth in our Christian parishes
to meet other children during their leisure time and help raise
funds for charitable projects. Erko is one of the greatest
children's organisations in Slovakia today with about 5,000
What has prompted your involvement in Sudan
Our organisation is co-operating with an Austrian NGO called
Katholischen Jungschar which is involved in fund-raising
activities for projects in developing countries. They have done
this for more than 40 years and Sudan is one of the countries
with their projects. Katholischen Jungschar supports the southern
Sudanese Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.
Following the example of our Austrian friends, we started
projects in the developing world three years ago and we are now
actively involved in mobilising Slovak children to raise money
for projects in Africa during the Christmas season. We have a
street children's project in Nairobi, and this year, I and a
project officer from Austria were sent to assess the situation in
Uganda and Sudan, with a view to expanding our activities to
these areas. In Sudan, we had an extensive tour of the Lake
provinces in the company of the Apostolic Administrator of
Rumbek, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari. We have seen the suffering of
the Sudanese and concluded that they surely deserve our
Your motherland has also had its share of political upheavals,
how do you compare the level of misery there, if any, to what you
witnessed in Sudan.
Ours was previously a communist regime that denied people certain
rights and privileges. For instance, the church was not allowed
to conduct its activities freely. However, the system did not
affect the people to the levels of the Sudanese situation. The
changes we have today were not brought by war but just political
pressure. Even under communism we always had adequate food,
access to healthcare and so on. In Sudan, I have witnessed a lot
of suffering. The country is still at war and there is virtually
no infrastructure in place, no healthcare, no shelter, you name
it. Right now (March) people in the areas I visited are surviving
on mangoes and it remains anybody's guess as to what will become
of them as soon as the mangoes are over.
What is your next plan of action for Sudan.
We will hold a series of meetings back home in which I will brief
the rest on my findings. We will then discuss and draw our plans
on how we can help improve the situation. Last December, we
raised about $110,000 part of which was allocated to the street
children's programme in Kenya. The rest of the money is still in
our account. Sudan definitely needs a lot of assistance and it is
my strongest conviction that part of the money will be utilised
for their cause.
Exactly how do you raise the money for your projects
During the Christmas season up to around the second week of
January, our group leaders organise their members and visit
people's homes where they sing Christmas carols and are in return
given some little money as a token of appreciation. Such
activities are referred to locally as Dobra Novina. There are
more than 300 parishes, bringing together about 9,000 children.
In the last season, they visited about 25,000 families, raising
Do you get any assistance from the Slovak government.
Not directly. The government gives us some support as a
children's organisation but not for our projects. Slovakia is not
a donor country and may only provide stipend to a few students.
Is Erko also involved in charitable activities back at home
Only under certain circumstances, not regularly. For instance, if
our country is in need of relief, we may call upon our parishes
to organise Dobra Novina.
When do you hope to go back to Sudan for a follow-up
I would not know at this stage because that is subject to a
number of considerations including security and the cost of
travel. My impression, however, was that I should go back as
soon as possible. The people of Sudan are in need and they surely
need somebody to be with them at this time of immense
difficulties, even if it is only for a few days. It was apparent
that our presence and presence of Msg. Mazzolari, just like the
presence of Church, did a lot to lift the people's spirits. The
churches are doing commendable work in southern Sudan but the NGO
presence is still minimal.
What would you suggest as a solution to the Sudanese crisis
Sudanese problem is a difficult one. But first, the warring
parties must agree to lay down their arms and resort to dialogue.
They have to agree on what can best serve their diverse interests
even if it means autonomy for the south. The international
community too must accept that they have a role to help end the
war in Sudan. For the time being, the Khartoum Government must
allow free access to all areas in need of relief assistance as a
way of demonstrating their commitment to reconciliation.
What was your general impression about of southern Sudan and the
people you met
It is a land of great potential. The southern Sudanese are a very
friendly people, their poverty not withstanding. I feel that if
they can be assisted in their needs, they can get the confidence
of being even friendlier. We visited four missions and were
equally impressed by the missionaries and all the volunteers
working there. Their work is commendable considering the
difficult conditions under which they operate.
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: