United Church Outreach Committee supports South Sudan orphanage

Tracey Coghlin, (left rear) and her spouse Brad Hoover (right rear) accepted a cheque for $500 at Little Current United Church on Sunday for the work of Confident Children Out of Conflict (CCOC) as well as bags filled with handmade dresses and other useful items for children at an orphanage in Juba, South Sudan, in Africa the CCOC supports. The donations were made by the Little Current United Church Outreach Committee represented in the photo by, front row, left, Susie Jewell, Gail Gjos, Shirley Viney and Glena Roy. Ms. Coglin, an OPP sergeant, believes strongly in the importance of CCOC’s mission and spoke about it at Sunday’s church service.

LITTLE CURRENT—At church service on August 28, the congregation of Little Current United Church was treated to both an object lesson in the personal importance of volunteerism and also learned about a small orphanage in far-away South Sudan in the Horn of Africa.

Tracy Coghlin and her husband Brad Hoover were introduced by Wendy Gauthier. Ms. Gauthier explained that she and her husband Marcel had met the couple during a vacation earlier this year and she was so impressed by what Ms. Coglin does as a volunteer that she had asked them to speak to her church family.

Ms. Coghlin holds the rank of sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police. She explained that she is a 24-year veteran of the OPP and works at the police service’s Orilla headquarters where she is tasked with investigating sexual and domestic assault cases. Her husband, Brad Hoover, is also a policeman and has been a member of the Toronto police service for 30 years. His work in Toronto is similar to Ms. Coglin’s.

Ms. Coghlin explained that, about five years ago, she was finding the nature of her police work stressful and so looked at spending a year abroad but still doing police work.

She applied for a United Nations position, was accepted, and was assigned to work in the nation of South Sudan.

South Sudan, after years of political turmoil and civil war, was able to break away from Sudan and was recognized as a country on its own by the United Nations. It is presently the newest nation in the world.

In her one-year role with the U.N., Ms. Coghlin was given responsibilities at a women’s prison.

She explained that, after a couple of months, she was finding this work as stressful as the job she had temporarily vacated in Ontario and had passed this onto her supervisor who was, like her, on leave from police duties in Canada, specifically the Edmonton police service.

This turned out to be a life-altering conversation.

Her superior suggested that she take on additional volunteer work, as clearly she had taken on the U.N. role because she wanted to be helpful.

He also suggested a particular orphanage that could use help.

Ms. Coghlin said she visited the orphanage (it was a 1.5 hour walk each way from where she was stationed), and was so completely impressed by its director, a Ugandan woman, Cathy Groenendijk, who had begun to take orphan children into her own home and had then begun to work with the U.N., eventually building a permanent shelter.

The orphanage is located in a centre called Juba and has space for 40 children, most of whom are girls who have been rescued from the streets of that city. The alternative for many of these children would have been to face a life in the sex trade in order to feed and shelter themselves.

Ms. Coghlin said she immediately began to dedicate all of her spare time to helping at the orphanage and, when she returned to Canada and her job with the OPP, continued to fundraise for the Juba orphanage and plans her vacation time so that she can go back and work there.

Last year, her husband joined her for the first time on one of these “working holidays” and the couple is planning to go back to Juba in November to take supplies to the orphanage and to help out.

Ms. Coghlin’s secondary message was about the importance of volunteerism, at home or abroad. “There are so many hardships and children in need in Africa that helping 40 children isn’t going to make a huge difference,” she stated. But the fact was, she went on to say, that these 40 orphans are being helped.

It was very clear that the dedication of Cathy Groenendijk, the founder of the Juba orphanage, has made an enormous impression on Ms. Coghlin and has, in fact, changed her life.

“Cathy is a person who, if she sees a child who is dying in the streets, will bring that child back to her home, to her own bed, where the child will die with her,” Ms. Coghlin said.

But she also told the story of Moses, a child Cathy found as an infant left in a puddle and brought back to the orphanage. Moses is now five and speaks four languages and the slide presentation that Mr. Hoover showed during his spouse’s talk showed Moses as an infant as well as a current picture of a smiling and happy child. Ms. Coghlin also said that a young woman who had lived her life at the orphanage is now in medical school in Uganda and Cathy Groenendijk is hopeful that, when she becomes a physician, she will return to Juba to help the community there.

The charity that operates the orphanage (and also supports 600 other children in the region by providing them with school uniforms and supplies so they can get an education) is called Confident Children Out of Conflict (CCOC) and Ms. Coghlin advocates for this organization by spending much of her own time giving talks to church groups and service clubs. She said she is hoping that this week, the Canada Revenue Agency will recognize CCOC as a charitable organization in Canada, allowing it to issue tax receipts for donations.

Following Sunday’s presentations Ms. Coghlin and Mr. Hoover were presented with a cheque for $500 from the church’s Outreach Committee (funds were earned at a quiche luncheon put on by the Outreach Committee after church that same day).

The Little Current United Church Outreach Committee had also sewed bags for every child in the orphanage and stuffed each of them with a homemade dress (for the girls), underwear, flip flops, toiletries and personal care items.

CCOC is inspired by Christian compassion to take care of the most vulnerable children and their families in society by commitment to community participation and development and by passion to advocate for the rights of vulnerable children and youth through partnerships.

One of these partnerships was demonstrated Sunday as the church’s Outreach Committee helped fulfill this mandate.

CCOC’s website address is www.confidentchildren.org.