Brain, Dynal, Staff, and founders of Second Harvest Food Bank, thank you so much for your wonderful job of fighting hunger and helping those who are really in need and thank you for letting me volunteer at Second Harvest.

My name is Betty Asha, I am from South Sudan and a student at Maryville College. Volunteering at Second Harvest means a lot to me and I always take pleasure in such activities, which involve fighting hunger and helping others because I have experience and know what it means by being hungry and needy.

In 2006, when I turned 13 years old, my village chief and his staff arranged for me to marry in exchange for goats and chickens as a cultural mandate, but for some reason, I refused to get married off at the age of 13 years old. I wanted to stay in school so that I could help my widow mother who was struggling to raise us by herself. My father died when I was 8 years old leaving my mother with five children and I was the firstborn. Refusing arranged marriage in my country is life and death decision that I took. To be honest, it has never happened in the history of my entire village that a girl refused such cultural requirements. I was subjected to three days of torture. I was beaten all kinds of beats, burned, and left to die. United Methodist missionaries rescued me and took me to an old WWI type hospital where I was hospitalized for a month. As a result of the torture, To this day I have lost all hearing in my right side ear, I carry the scars of the burns and beatings over much of my body, I just found I needed glasses when arriving to Maryville because I have 20-100 vision, and to this day I suffer from an inner ear problem that creates migraine headaches and vertigo for me.

After recovering at the hospital, I was thrown out of the village and the village chief warned my mother not to allow me home and everyone in the village looked at me as a “criminal”. I became homeless at the age of 13 years old. That was the worst life I have ever lived. That was the time I starved nearly to death. I cried all kinds of cries. I asked God all kinds of questions. I asked God to tell me what was wrong with me, what had I done to deserve that kind of life? Three years later, God answered my prayers, and sent me Chris Hurley, a resident of Maryville, to go all the way from the USA to meet me in Africa particularly in a village called Pukuka, South Sudan. God is a way maker and a promise keeper. He works miracles and turns impossibilities into possibilities. He answers prayers. Chris Hurley became more than a father to me. He restored hope in me and assured me of a better future. That I am here today alive and bearing witness of God’s grace and his purpose for our lives is that proof. Creating hope is so important and that is still another reason I like Second Harvest – that is what you really do for people, you give them hope.

My life in the past taught me to always trust God, help others, work hard, and forgive. I forgave those people, who tortured me and wanted me dead. This world is a globe that people move around on. Before I came to America and with the help of my American father, God used me to save the lives of several thousands of my people, who were trapped in a war zone in 2016. I rescued 2,296 people from my town of Yei, South Sudan when the civil war broke out there. The village elders that tortured me were among them. I took them to Uganda and handed them to the United Nations (UN) and they are still in various refugee camps in the northern part of Uganda to this day. You can read more about my story on my website –

In April 2020, when the Covid -19 broke out, the same refugees – and others – were not dying of the virus but starvation instead because the United Nation reduced the amount of food individuals were receiving and I had to save them for the second time. Actually, we have repeated this savings two times. The first time the refugees ran out of food for about two weeks. Many lost their lives, especially children. I shared the situation with my dad’s company, Russell, and Abbott Heating & Cooling, and they donated money that purchased 29,762 pounds of food that fed 4,144 refugees for a month. You can also visit my website for this story as well and read more published news articles and stories from here and in Africa.

Fighting hunger and helping others is my passion because I know what it means and that I experienced it. Once again, thank you so much for letting me volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank. I was looking for any possible means of serving and giving back to the community of Maryville that has done so much in the lives of my people and myself including getting me here, and you have given me that wish.

May God bless you all at Second Harvest and bless the United State of America.

Betty Asha