Reaching out with ‘Bridges to Sudan’

Flagler College Professor Tina Jaeckle seeks to help Sudanese refugees with organization

By Mary Elizabeth Fair |

Throughout our lives we are given many opportunities. Opportunities to progress in our careers, to make new friends, start new lives and become the people that we want to be.

Most of us come from a country that allows us to do all of these things freely, a country of endless opportunity. Sometimes these blessings of opportunity blind us from the world around us that isn’t as free or optimistic.

Dr. Tina Jaeckle, an assistant professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences at Flagler, is embracing her opportunity to help the Sudanese refugees who are living in Jacksonville through the charity she co-founded, Bridges to Sudan, Inc.

More than 600 Sudanese refugee families have settled in Jacksonville after being displaced from their homes by the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The war erupted in 1983 when the northern portion of Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, began attacking the southern part of Sudan, which is not Muslim, because they would not conform to Islamic beliefs. The war lasted from 1983 to 2005, throughout that time more than 2 million Sudanese people were killed and 4 million were displaced from their homes.

Throughout Jaeckle’s work with the Sudanese refugees in Jacksonville, she recorded some of the events of the refugees’ lives during the war. Among these stories, a man relayed his account of the day he would never forget: the day that his grandfather was shot to death right before his eyes when he was just a child.

He and his grandfather had been riding horses when they came upon Muslims, who directed them to a playground where they shot his grandfather. Fortunately the man was able to escape and is now living as a refugee in Africa.

In Sudan, not only were families displaced, but children were also left orphaned and seeking safety from their war-torn country that they once called home.

These children faced incredible odds trying to make it into bordering countries that offered protection. In today’s society these children are referred to as the “lost boys and girls.”

“Most of the Lost Boys and Girls were 8, 9 or 10 years old when the war broke out,” Jaeckle said. “Six-thousand to 8,000 boys and girls were sent out of the Sudan.”

Today the Lost Boys and Girls that were brought to the U.S. are in their mid-20s and have significantly different lives than the ones they lead in their childhood.

No longer do they have to face a life of terror but rather they can live their lives in freedom and a hope for a life of peace among their people.

Although the Sudanese refugees in the United States no longer have to fear for their lives, they still had to overcome obstacles when they made it to the United States. They came to a country that offered everything when they had nothing and often times that can be very intimidating.

“Many of them had to learn what electricity was because they had never had it before,” Jaeckle said. “These families are struggling to meet ends meet.”

Simple everyday tasks are a hurdle for these refugees.

Many of the families and Lost Boys and Girls were brought to the United States through charities and government agencies. Catholic charities and Lutheran social services along with many other government agencies based out of Jacksonville have helped bring many refugees to the city. An entire refugee community in Jacksonville has resulted in the relocation of the refugees.

Bridges to Sudan assists Sudanese refugee families and children in Jacksonville by helping them become accustomed to the American way of life. The charity helps both Americans and Sudanese understand each other’s cultures.

Bridges of Sudan also helps inform the Sudanese people of American laws because as Jaeckle said, “They have no concept of laws because they have no law enforcement over there.

“People have no idea what it means to be bullied of tortured for what you believe in.”
Unlike democracy, where citizens have the freedom to believe what they want, the Sudanese government remains under Islamic control under the leadership of Omar Al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir is now in the midst of battling the United Nations about what to do with Darfur, a Sudanese state where hundreds are being killed everyday for what they believe in.

If you would like to know more about Bridges of Sudan or would like information on volunteering, contact Tina Jaeckle at or go to

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