From Sudan to America and back once again for Covington man

Vincent Oywak fled from a war-torn Sudan to make a better life for himself and his family in the United States.

Vincent Oywak travels to the Republic of South Sudan for his work as a manger for Sudan Microfinance Institution.

Vincent Oywak travels to the Republic of South Sudan for his work as a manger for Sudan Microfinance Institution.

Vincent Oywak fled from a war-torn Sudan to make a better life for himself and his family in the United States.

“I left because of the war; it was mainly about safety,” Oywak said. “Staying put was just not an option for me, but leaving was just hard. I travelled alone a lot.”

Oywak travelled by foot, train and plane to many places including Egypt, Italy and Iraq. He arrived in Washington state in 1998.

“I love living in the United States because I get peace and the opportunity to grow in an atmosphere where my kids have access to good schools, healthcare and a free society where they can grow up in and explore their own opportunities.”

Oywak just returned from the Republic of South Sudan. He is a manager for the Sudan Microfinance Institution (SUMI) stationed in South Sudan and he works there for six months every year.

“Sudan Microfinance Institution’s objective is to offer financial services on a self-sustaining yet efficient basis to micro-entrepreneurs living in southern Sudan, with emphasis on the agriculture sector, women, returned refugees, and internally displaced persons,” Oywak explained. “I am honored to be a part of it because I think it is essential to help rebuild our newly declared country.”

The Republic of South Sudan became an independent country on July 9 of this year. Oywak was working in South Sudan when he heard the news.

“It was so exciting, just a historical and emotional event to see,” he said. “Our parents and generation of family members waited for this moment to happen, so it is so great to see it happen in my lifetime.”

Although the Republic of South Sudan is now independent, it is still a conflicted country in need of much. Oywak believes SUMI is a great step in providing help to the people.

“It is essential to provide the people with financial education and help,” he said. “Providing micro-loan knowledge to people has the potential for them to establish their own business, eliminate poverty and become self-sufficient.”

Given the lack of infrastructure, few businesses, no legal or regulatory framework, and a culture of heavy dependence on relief aid brought on by a quarter century of war, few thought a microfinance institution could be developed.

“Despite everything, I had no doubt it would be a great benefit to our country and a great success,” Oywak said. “Our country relies almost 100 percent on imports right now. This is something we need.”

Created with USAID support in 2003, SUMI is performing above inter-national standards and growing. Through solidarity groups and salary loans in three southern Sudan branches, the total value of loans disbursed by February 2005 was close to a half million dollars to more than 1,600 clients, above the targets set in their business plan.

SUMI’s repayment rate is over 98 percent with a portfolio-at-risk rate of less than 6 percent, according to USAID’s website.

“In five years, I see this business helping our country become stable,” Oywak said. “I want us to develop infrastructure, health services through building a local credit union model that promotes local ownership.”

The population of the Republic of South Sudan is around 12 million, which is small in comparison of the land mass, Oywak said.

“Our country is actually blessed with an abundance of resources, so there are many opportunities ready for people to take,” Oywak said. “There is considerable interest for people to return from the United States, however, the lack of basic services is an impairment for mass return. Many problems are related to poor infrastructure, high illiteracy rates, high mortality rate, malaria and waterborne diseases.”

Oywak thinks that if the country becomes stronger, many refugees will come home.

“If people know they can comfortably live here, or can help our country, they will return,” he said. “The challenge of building our country is enormous, but we hope to learn from other places on what to do, including the United States.”

 


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Kent School Board bans fellow member from labor contract talks

Controversial 3-2 vote singles out Donald Cook because his wife teaches in the district

Ex-Seattle Seahawks lineman Chad Wheeler received a prison sentence of six years and nine months for assaulting his girlfriend in 2021 at their Kent apartment. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Seattle Seahawks
Judge sentences ex-Seahawks lineman Chad Wheeler to prison

Receives sentence of six years and nine months for 2021 Kent assault of his girlfriend

t
Vehicle strikes, injures two juvenile pedestrians in Kent

Police say the juveniles ran across SE 256th Street on Feb. 28 while traffic had the green light

Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County
Kent COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic to close at end of March

Still time to get free shots before federal funding for clinic expires

t
Kent Police catch Soos Creek Elementary School burglary suspect

Officers arrest 23-year-old Kent woman after foot pursuit in Feb. 26 incident

t
Kent Police Blotter: Feb. 14-22

Incidents include vehicle robbery, machete threat, teen shot and injured

t
Medical examiner identifies pedestrian, 56, killed on Kent’s West Hill

Bruce Brooks died from multiple blunt force injuries in collision with vehicle on Pacific Highway S.

t
Kent Salary Commission proposes $9,132 pay hike for mayor this year

Annual pay to jump to $212,088; residents can offer input about increase at March 14 meeting

t
Trooper shot in Kent ‘lucky to be alive,’ according to sources

Tourniquet had to be applied to his leg to save his life

Donald Cook. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District
Kent School Board member Cook focus of proposed resolution | Update

Measure would form Labor Policy Committee that excludes Cook due to potential conflict

t
Seattle male pedestrian killed in Kent after collision with vehicle

Reportedly stepped into lanes Feb. 26 in 24400 block of Pacific Highway South

t
Kent Police make robbery arrests after West Hill carjacking

Vehicle reportedly taken near Pacific Highway South; pursuit ends in Auburn