Mary and her mother Deborah

Mary and her mother Deborah

Since conflict broke out in South Sudan just over a year ago, more than 1.9 million people have been forced from their homes to escape the violence. And while no official death toll exists, estimates say that tens of thousands of people have died.

Hearing overwhelming statistics like this can sometimes overshadow the fact that these millions of people are individuals, who one year ago were living their lives—attending school, going to work and raising their families.

Mary Athiens is one of these people. A 15-year-old girl, Mary was attending school and living on her family’s farm when war broke out. “I’m supposed to be in school right now,” she says. “The war made me stop, but I will continue one day.”

Mary’s mother tells of how her family fled with only the clothes on their backs. “There was no time to pack any clothes or food.”

In response to the need of many who have been forced from their homes with nothing, Presbyterian World Service & Development—through our partners at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank—is providing support to Mary’s family, and other families just like theirs.

Food assistance means young children and mothers will receive proper nourishment.

Food assistance means young children and mothers will receive proper nourishment.

Beans, maize flour and salt are being provided—the relief will help tide families over until they can go home.

And while the war may have interrupted her schooling, Mary has dreams of where her education will take her—the senseless violence she has witnessed has made her even more determined to succeed.

Mary thinks of the time when she’ll be able to return home and complete school so that she can grow food to support her family and community. “I want to be an agriculturalist,” she says. “There is nowhere in the world you can go or work without food.”

To support PWS&D’s response in South Sudan, you can make a donation through your church offering, by mailing a cheque to or calling the PWS&D office, or by clicking the donate button. Please mark your donation “South Sudan.”

*Original text and photos by Amanda Thorsteinsson, CFGB Communications Officer