Louisville resident Tracey Clayton knew she wanted to go on a mission trip, she just didn’t know exactly where. Through the Internet, she found her calling on an 18-day trip to the African nation of South Sudan.
As a united Sudan, a bitter civil war ravaged the country for more than 20 years. Even after the South gained independence in 2011, violence and armed conflict still exist. Tensions flared between factions only weeks before Clayton embarked on her 24-hour flight followed by a 7-hour drive to the South Sudanese town of Maridi.
Stacked like nesting dolls in her backpack, Hall’s friend Clayton also transported around 40 of the boxes to be given out to local children. It had always been Hall’s dream to go on a mission trip to a faraway land. But her body will no longer allow her to achieve that goal.
“That would be my big dream, but I’ve waited too long now. But I have someone doing it,” Hall said.
Instead, she cut and folded the cards, ultimately transforming them into trinkets to make the children’s days just a little bit brighter.
“You do it just so they know someone is remembering them and taking the time to make one little thing that goes in their hands,” Hall said. “I just wish I could send them all over there because I know they’ve never seen anything like them.”
While helping a local pastor plant a new church in the region and strengthen two others, Clayton passed out the boxes to the children who followed her around the town. Considering most hadn’t ever experienced snow, they particularly liked the winter scenes.
“The boxes were more valuable than the candy,” Clayton said.
Although many in the area live in poverty, Clayton sees the end of hostilities as a rebirth for long war-torn country. The pastor she traveled there with wanted Americans to know that his country has the resources to prosper, they just need knowledge and training.
“Right now this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for this country to establish itself. Who are they going to be?” she said.
In the future, she hopes to return to the town and work to provide more opportunities for South Sudanese women.
“If you can teach a woman to raise a child a little differently, to think a little different, in just a couple of generations you can change a country,” she said. “And if you raise that child in love and loving others, then things change.”
Hall also continues to make boxes from used cards for both nursing home residents and the children of Sudan. For those looking to donate, both the New Albany and Jeffersonville offices of the News and Tribune will be accepting old greeting cards on her behalf. For questions on Hall’s project, please phone her at 812-246-5315.