In the waning days of 2013, former Charlottean Kim Campbell and her husband, Brad, found themselves, two of their daughters, and the nine orphans in their care caught in the crossfire of South Sudan’s civil war.
That was then. This is now: The Campbells and the South Sudanese children (ages 6 to 17) are safe and all together again in another African country.(For the children’s safety, they’d prefer to not identify the country).
“Oh my gosh – what a miracle that they got out of South Sudan alive,” reported Freddie Power, president of Keeping Hope Alive, the Fort Mill-based charity that has been backing the Campbells’ orphan ministry. “We rented them a house there and they’ve set up housekeeping, just like they did in South Sudan.”
During the thick of the fighting between two rival factions of the South Sudanese army, the Campbells, their 16- and 23-year-old daughters and the refugee children orphaned by war and disease sought refuge in an ad hoc U.N. camp in Malakal that was low on water, food and sanitation.
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Power said the Campbells eventually had to leave without the orphans. The Campbells went to Kenya, and began looking for ways to get the children out.
Power said it was a caretaker at the orphanage who finally managed it, taking the children on a perilous, expensive journey – Keeping Hope Alive sent $2,000 to pay for a guide – that ended in another country in Africa.
There, on March 8, the children were met, Power said, by the Campbells, who had traveled to that country from Kenya.
When the orphans saw the Campbells, whom they call Mom and Dad, “they started screaming so loud that people in the street asked if everything was all right,” Power said.
The plan now is for Kim and Brad Campbell – she’s 54, he’s 44 – and all the children to live in “a place of refuge,” as Power put it, until war conditions end in South Sudan. Then they’ll return, Power said.
But the Campbells, who have also lived in Omaha, Neb., plan to visit the United States soon to see another daughter who is expecting a baby.
And in May, she said, the couple plans to stop in the Charlotte area to visit with Power, who last exchanged emails with the Campbells on Monday.