WERKOK, South Sudan -- It's a country half the world away which shares nothing that West Michigan has to offer. Decades of war deny any chance of a normal life and basic necessities like food, water and health care are marginalized, which has paved a road to disease and despair.
Malaria, pneumonia and wounds of war are prevalent for the survivors of South Sudan. It's the same survival that's bred inspiration for a West Michigan man, fresh off his 16th stint into the war-torn region.
FOX 17’s Cassandra Arsenault joined the founder of Partner’s of Compassionate Care (PCC) on his latest journey, accompanied by a team that shares his passion fostered by a love built at home.
David Bowman's drive doesn't derive from an infomercial or artificial source. Years ago the decision to sponsor five Sudanese boys who survived civil unrest in their native land brought struggles unrealized to the forefront. He gave his new “sons” as he called them, a new life and taught them lessons no book could.
South Sudan is rich in tradition. You can find youthful minds that are playful and curious all around the village of Werkok. With no school, they try to draw strength from their elders. They are stranded in a land of survival where violence, sickness and hunger are any everyday norm.
Michigan is a state more than 6,000 miles removed from South Sudan's turmoil. One of the world’s newest nations established in 2009, a new land that to most is beyond reach.
The village of Werkok is where PCC has made their mark. A village so remote that no commercial airlines fly there, only a charter plan, and it has to land on a dirt airstrip. The soil of the small area is a new home for Bowman, who is trying to bridge American and Sudanese culture.
“I feel sorry for guys my age. All they think about is their golf score, or some cruise they went on. Shame on them,” said Bowman.
At 78-years-old, he's just completed his 16th mission to South Sudan.
“I am hoping I can go for another 10 years, but I don’t know. I take it a year at a time,” he said,
Bowman fosters relationships in PCC, building blocks for Memorial Christian Hospital. MCH is the only hospital in Werkok. Bowman has continued to grow the hospital starting at 12 beds, now 28, over the years.
It’s the work of man far removed from the West’s idea of privilege. He’ll tell you he isn’t a doctor, or a millionaire, or a contractor. He wasn’t even sure how he would be able to start the hospital, but he knew the Sudanese in that area needed one.
“I am an ordinary guy. I am a high school graduate. I didn’t go to college,” said Bowman.
He’s dedicated to a nation with a lot of obstacles. South Sudan is plagued by the worst infant mortality rate in the world at 2 percent, and 27 percent of the population is illiterate. Not to mention most of their money goes to funding weapons and military equipment that is fueling tribal wars.
“Then an idea pops into my head. What are you going to do about it?”
He opened the hospital in 2006, and it now houses the only x-ray machine and ultrasound available for miles. The hospital has now performed over 2,000 surgeries and helped over 65,000 patients.
The changes made by Bowman and his companions didn't happen overnight, and wouldn't have if it wasn't for the inspiration installed by survivors in South Sudan during the civil unrest during the '90s.
He now calls some of these survivors his sons.