110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 23, 2014 - 1:26:44pm
Torrey Peace arrived for a Christmas visit in DeLand earlier than expected, after
being airlifted out of South Sudan, where she was working for a humanitarian agency.
Peace, a DeLand native and the daughter of residents Fred and Suze Peace, got her
rescue ride Dec. 18, as South Sudan deteriorated in violent civil war.
The Republic of South Sudan was formed in Central Africa in 2011 after a couple of
civil clashes. It is bordered by the Republic of Sudan to the north. The new country has
been wracked by conflict since its formation, and the United Nations and U.S. are trying
to keep South Sudan from being torn apart by tribal factions.
The crisis that ejected Torrey Peace began Dec. 15, when President Salva Kiir
accused former Vice President Riek Machar of trying to overthrow the government.
Marchar, from a different tribe than Kiir’s, said the president is rooting out political
Violence raged. The New York Times reported Jan. 9 that the number of dead from
the conflict was close to 10,000.
Fighting began Dec. 15 in the capital city of Juba.
Torrey Peace heard the first gunshots from the secure compound where she lived.
"We stayed there for three days, until we were evacuated," she said. "The American
Embassy started evacuating people."
She was flown on an Air Force jet from Juba to Nairobi, and returned to DeLand from
Before the evacuation, she was able to look down the street and see many displaced
"There were about 2,000 in a compound just down the street," she said.
The displaced people had been able to bring only a few small items with them. They
had no shelter and no access to water.
Many people in Juba and elsewhere just ran when the fighting began. Family
members were separated, she said.
Before she left Juba, Torrey was able to get in contact with another worker from her
humanitarian group in the town of Bor, a site of heavy fighting. The staff member said he
ran into the bush with his family and hid.
"I heard he made it to the Uganda border," Torrey Peace said.
Other humanitarian workers were displaced, as well.
She was told armed men were looting the markets in communities, and some of the
people her program served were shot dead. Others' houses were burned down, or they
simply ran, or both.
"A lot of people, when the crisis started, just ran," Torrey said, adding that about
200,000 people displaced.
"When we were bunkered down in our compound, we heard heavy gunfire, mortar
explosions from the two barracks that were in Juba, and we listened to the radio trying to
figure out what was going on," she said.
Torrey doesn't want to identify the organization that employs her, because she's not
allowed to speak for the agency. Now 34, Peace went to South Sudan in early 2011,
before the country gained its independence.
The newest country in the world has faced many challenges, she said, but its people
were slowly transitioning from living off emergency and relief response to addressing
longer-term needs, including Torrey's area of expertise: food security and livelihoods.
With the latest crisis, humanitarian efforts will be set back to emergency-relief mode,
Torrey Peace said. She plans to return to South Sudan in February, mostly likely helping
with distributing food and meeting immediate needs.
"I'm eager to go back. You see the reports in the media and you hear about it from
people you know who are over there. It makes you anxious to go back and help," she
What do her parents think of all this?
Mom Suze Peace said people often ask that question, and she has a ready answer.
“She doesn’t belong to us. She belongs to God,” Suze said.
Something can happen to anyone anywhere, Suze Peace said. “I believe God is in
charge of her and all of us. It’s really her choice.”
She added, “We’re proud of the fact that she’s brave. She’s very kind, and she’s out
there in the world.”
Fred Peace said going to South Sudan is the decision of Torrey and her husband. He
is happy that even though they are so far away, he and Suze Peace can communicate
weekly with Torrey and her husband, Shannon, through Skype.
“I have wondered throughout Torrey’s career,” Fred Peace said, “We as Americans
tend to forget the value of clean energy, water and transportation that we have and
others in third world countries don’t have. It makes me refocus and have gratitude for
the things we have.”
What has Torrey Peace’s career involved?
She first got involved in humanitarian work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala
in 2004-06, she said. She then went to the University of Florida and obtained a master's
degree in business, but with the plan of going back to work in the humanitarian and
After completing her master's, Torrey worked in Jordan, advising a nonprofit agency
there, then worked in Malawi for eight months before going to to South Sudan.
"My particular area is microfinance — finding ways of making credit available to
low-income consumers, and encouraging people to save and invest money," Torrey
She had started that work in South Sudan before the crisis.
While in South Sudan, she met the man who became her husband, Shannon Oliver,
who is also a humanitarian worker. The couple married in April 2013, then Oliver went to
Kabul, Afghanistan, in September. He had been worried for her when the crisis started.
"Hopefully we'll see each other in March, when he gets a break," Torrey Peace said.
She expects the two of them will work abroad for a few more years.
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