Orphans of the Nile, Part 1
WATCH: Video above is the first segment in a series of three titled Orphans of the Nile by Reporter Kevin Wallevand and Photographer Devin Krinke.
(WDAY/WDAZ News) - Sunday night, the journey begins, WDAY's epic adventure to Africa, capturing the story of one Fargo organization's efforts to save and protect young girls who have been orphaned by war and hunger in South Sudan.
Because of recent conflict, "African Soul-American Heart" had to move those girls across the border to Uganda.
They will stay there to be educated and become future leaders in Africa.
The documentary will air Wednesday evening, but for the next few nights, an incredible look at: "The Orphans of the Nile."
It is morning on the Nile, Africa's Great River.
As we approach shore, a sobering sight, hundreds of women and children, fleeing the violence in South Sudan, seeking safety here in Uganda.
"I must have crossed this ferry 20 times and I have never seen a group of South Sudanese refugees," said Deb Dawson.
Deb Dawson of Fargo's African Soul American Heart, which rescues orphan girls from the scenario, watched in disbelief.
"The situation is heart breaking, this many people, and this is just one, they are crossing the ferry all day and going to a reception, the place they used to go is full, those communities housing refugees are full, they have as many refugees as they do Uganda people living in that county," said Deb Dawson, Founder of Asah-Fargo.
Just miles away, at the border of South Sudan and Uganda, hungry scared refugees some who had escaped gunfire just hours before we arrived.
"A gunman came in and took everything from her house and set it ablaze," said one translator from the Lutheran World Federation.
These refugees are crossing the border every day because of the basic needs you and I take for granted, a place to sleep and food.
High above the African jungle, a break in the clouds, below, an anxious group of girls cannot wait to welcome the Fargo delegation to their village.
Deb Dawson of Fargo is surrounded by her girls.
The orphans of South Sudan, she helped rescue and bring to safety.
"It never gets old, it is what I live for, so these girls are okay," said Dawson.
Sponsors from Fargo Moorhead who help support the girls' education came off the plane here in Uganda, to a rock star welcome.
"It is incredible, yes," said Gina Sandgren of Moorhead.
The compound the orphan girls had in South Sudan was overrun by invaders during the conflict, trashed.
"We built a boarding school there and I never thought that in the end, we would leave it all behind," said Dawson.
It was a harrowing journey for some as they fled South Sudan for Uganda.
"They had to cross the Nile, the two small girls did not swim, the guys with them took plastic, tied it up and put the girls on the plastic and floated them across the Nile," said Dawson.
Here in Uganda, the girls are safe at this new compound.
For some of them, an incredible journey for many of them details no young girls without parents should have to experience from death to rape.
"One of the girls walked miles with her blind grandmother and there was no food or water and she fed her grandmother leaves to stay alive," said Dawson.
The Fargo based group African Soul American Heart, is insuring that as young orphans, these girls do not face arranged marriage.
"This is a common part of this war, where one tribe will rape the women of another, and even if they did not witness it themselves, they know about it," said Dawson.
Living and working together, getting some of the best grades, some of these orphan girls have big dreams here.
The admiration these girls have for Deb Dawson and her Fargo based group is heartwarming.
Not only a dance to welcome the Fargo based group to Africa.
"My name is Elizabeth…"
Her song of thanks so profound.
She cried her way through it.
These orphans now safe, their future brighter because of Fargo arms that wrap themselves across and ocean.
For these sisters, these orphans of the Nile.
Catch our Documentary, "Orphans of the Nile" Wednesday night, at 6:30 following our news.