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Man's illness led to relocation, charity work in South Sudan
Scott Montgomery talked about his work in South Sudan to a group in Stuart last week.
Monday, August 11, 2014
A Patrick County man turned his struggle with a disease into efforts to improve life for people in South Sudan.
Scott Montgomery, 25, founder of a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, Roots International Inc., gave a presentation on his profession and work in Yei, South Sudan, last week at the Honduras Coffee Shop in Stuart.
Montgomery graduated from Patrick County High School and Longwood University. During his second year at Longwood, he developed a digestive disease known as Crohns-Colitis. The disease, which almost cost him his colon, made him reflect on his lifestyle.
The struggle he endured influenced him to try to help others.
“Looking back, I always feel really blessed to be doing anything, especially to be doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Two years ago, Montgomery took a job after college as an accountant with Kissito Healthcare and Kissito Healthcare International, based in Roanoke. He was eager to travel overseas, and during his second year at Kissito, he was able to go to East Africa.
Montgomery started Roots International in September 2012. It develops programs to increase the self-reliance and food security of South Sudan and its people, according to its website.
In July 2013, after resigning from his job with Kissito, he moved to Uganda with Roots International before eventually heading to Yei. Now, he is managing a demonstration farm on the grounds of the Chrisco Church of Yei (pronounced “Yay,” according to Montgomery).
Yei, which has an estimated population of around 185,000, is in the southwest region of South Sudan. It is known as a “business hub” and attracts traders and customers from South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
South Sudan is a landlocked country in northeastern Africa that gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. The country is about twice the size of Texas, Montgomery said.
The living conditions are not ideal there, he said, mentioning in particular the harvesting of food — which he helps out with the most — and the ongoing war between the government and opposition forces.
“It’s a political problem, but it’s also manifested in sort of a tribal way,” he said. “Unfortunately, there were a lot of people killed in the capital. ... It’s quite far from where I am, but there were a few days where it felt really closer.” when is he talking about? we need some sort of time reference here.
Montgomery’s presentation documented his journey, showing some of the villages he stayed in along with the living conditions of their inhabitants. The people he has visited in Yei grow about four crops and on most days, that is all they eat.
“It’s a basic diet, and every day they will eat the same thing,” he said.
Montgomery is working to implement a demonstration farm at the Chrisco Church to test crops that are not grown in the area as well as different planting or management methods.
“Farming is the thing that I felt more strongly about,” he said. “I guess it’s because of the way I changed my diet and I felt more strongly about having nice things to eat. When you travel in Africa, and especially in South Sudan, there’s not a lot of variety.”
Montgomery has contributed over $20,000 to his exploration work, and he accepts any kind of donation. He has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rootsinternationalorg) where those interested can keep up with him and contact him to help.
During his presentation, Montgomery showed photos from his journey through Yei, offered samples of Ethiopian coffee and displayed African soccer T-shirts and other accessories.
After a brief stay in Stuart, he will return to Yei Aug. 17.