Apr 3, 2018

Project Education South Sudan Update April 2, 2018

Five students stopped by the office in March to say “Thank You”. These five were all classmates at Langbaar Modern Secondary School, one of the nine high schools in Bortown, South Sudan where PESS currently provides scholarships for girls – all five girls aspiring future leaders in the world’s newest country. These five students are graduates who had just completed their government mandated high school proficiency exams, a requirement for graduation.

Daniel Gai, Executive Director of PESS, snapped a photo of the five students who came to express their thanks (please see attached photo). Included in the photo is Daniel’s brother, Ngor (PESS board member), who is currently visiting in Bortown and helping out with the program. Ngor is a chemist and works in quality control for a company based in Denver Colorado. Ngor, like his older brother Daniel, moved to Denver to escape the fighting and the refugee camps, then got a college degree and became a US citizen. Also, like his older brother, Ngor is drawn to continue helping people from his homeland of South Sudan, offering hope and helping them to grow the leadership needed to rebuild their country.

Also in the photo are two previous graduates of the PESS scholarship program, Abuk (lower left in the photo) and Akur (upper right in the photo), now working as guides to the students still in school, helping them move toward graduation and plans for careers and/or motherhood – becoming moms who will now place a much greater value on the education of their own children. Abuk and Akur are now leaders among their peers. Graduating high school may not seem like a big deal to an American teenager or their parents, but consider this: According to the sketchy statistics UNICEF is able to gather, only 1% of girls in the country of South Sudan graduates from high school. No wonder that female literacy stands at 16% (perhaps even lower) in this country. In Bortown, 10 girls are graduating from high school this year due to the direct result of the generosity of American donors. Many more students are benefiting by staying after school for tutoring that PESS sponsors for their scholarship recipients. Ten students IS a big deal, when you consider the starting point for so many in South Sudan, especially for young girls.

It turns out that a picture really is worth a thousand words. This photo represents the incredible commitment of Daniel Gai who could have remained in the US and enjoyed a much easier life than the life he has chosen. It represents the incredible commitment of hundreds of interested Americans who have donated their valuable resources so that we at PESS can send the funds to a struggling country and give teenage girls the chance at a better life and the chance at becoming leaders in their country. The photo represents the gratitude of 5 students for the opportunity given them, but it also represents the gratitude of all the other students now working toward graduation. It also represents the gratitude of graduated students – now leaders – who are now able to support younger students by working in the PESS office in Bor.

It also turns out that you truly do make a difference. The students in our program in Bortown write every few months to tell us what they are thinking and how they are moving toward their goals. Their career goals are lofty. These students want to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, politicians. Not all will make it into the careers they dream of as teenagers. There are many fewer opportunities for higher education and for careers in South Sudan than there are in the US. However, some will make it. One of our recent graduates, Anna, whom you have read about in our previous reports, is now in Uganda working on admission to pre-med studies, working toward becoming a doctor. Another student from a previous year just graduated from nursing school in Juba. At least 5 former students are now teachers in private schools in Bor. Those who do not continue school after high school graduation will become better parents and community members, benefiting from the education they have received.

These students and we who work to make their studies possible are deeply grateful for your ongoing support. Like the five students from Langbaar Modern, we come to say “Thank You!”

Photo caption:
Thank You from:
Top Row L to R: Ngor Abiar (PESS board member), Yar, Akon, Amuor, and Akur (PESS employee)
Bottom Row L to R: Abuk (PESS employee), Athiek, and Achol

Jan 9, 2018

Project Education South Sudan Update Jan 6, 2018

Akur, Anna, and Abuk working at the PESS office
Akur, Anna, and Abuk working at the PESS office

Crowds line the dusty road that serves as “Main Street” in Bor, South Sudan. Waves of parade entries make their way between thousands of cheering onlookers. Each entry has 20-40 brightly uniformed participants chanting, dancing, singing. The enthusiasm is engaging. This is Christmas day in Bortown, capital of Jonglei State. One week later, the spectacle is repeated for New Year’s Day. This extended year-end celebration is a big deal and draws many South Sudanese back to their home towns from around the world. This is not a jeans and T-shirt, come as you are event. This is a day to dress up. It is festive. The Christmas and New Year’s celebrations demonstrate the resiliency of a community that lives daily with the results of civil unrest and lack of common resources like libraries, electricity, roads, and even food. The news is not all good; yet they celebrate! 

The high school girls in the PESS scholarship program carry this spirit of optimism with them into the classroom. Most of the students we support in the program come from families with missing parents, parents lost in long periods of civil war. Many live with relatives who have taken them in, or live with unemployed parents, jobless due to the devastated economy. When girls are able to go to school, they are customarily expected to work all afternoon after school. They haul water; they grind grain; they cook; they take care of young siblings. It is usually dark when the evening meal is done, and with no electricity, many students find it hard to do homework. PESS has done a couple things to help. We have instituted after-school tutoring supervised by teachers who are eager to stay longer to help students for a little extra money. Many families are willing to let their girls stay after school for tutoring before they come home to do household work. PESS has also bought headlamps (like the kind miners wear) for the students so they can stay up later in the evening and do homework. Students have eagerly accepted this help, and, among adults, a culture is growing of greater acceptance of girls succeeding in school. This shift in thinking will pay huge dividends in developing better leaders in this young nation. 

Eight of the students that PESS provided scholarships in 2017 graduated. All eight students passed their national secondary school exams. Not all of these students will be lucky enough to go on to university, although all of them wish to. Many families simply don’t have the funds to support ongoing education. The lives of these eight students, however, will be forever changed: their economic opportunities will be greater and, if they become mothers they will emphasize education for their children.  Three of these students are now working in the office of PESS in Bor. Two receive a small amount of pay and the third is working as a volunteer. They are working to help Daniel Gai, our Executive Director, build the vision of greater leadership through education. All of us looking on are saying, “Yay team!” 

PESS wants to increase its number of scholarships for girls by 25 this year. That’s a big increase from the 50 scholarships we provided in 2017, but She’s The First, our great partner in NYC has already committed to take on 7 of these new scholarships. Only 18 to go! We’re working on that and maybe you would like to help. We are so grateful for all of you who help through GlobalGiving. With your help we are making a difference. THANK YOU!  

Parade in Bor on Christmas Day
Parade in Bor on Christmas Day
Daniel, brother Ngor & cousin Matuor at Christmas
Daniel, brother Ngor & cousin Matuor at Christmas
Oct 9, 2017

Project Education South Sudan Update Oct 8, 2017

She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017
She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017

Organizational leaders from six African countries gathered in a hotel outside Nairobi, Kenya in September. They were all there to learn from each other and to improve their education programs. All of the organizations were partners of She’s The First in New York, the organization that provides many of the scholarships to students that PESS works with in Bor Town, South Sudan. Teams from each organization shared their successes and asked for help with their challenges. One thing they discussed was how to use story telling as a means to communicate your message and to encourage others to join in accomplishing your mission. 

Three conference participants were Daniel, Abuk, and Anna from Project Education South Sudan (PESS). Attending a conference like this with workers from other countries, all discussing common goals and similar challenges, was exhilarating for them, and crucial for growing the work they are so committed to accomplishing. The conference was a great step in leadership development for the two young workers, recent graduates, who just learned last month that they had passed their national exams, preparing the way for them to apply to university. 

Growing leaders is the only way to build and perpetuate the educational achievements that PESS is developing. The excitement that these two young women have is contagious. Since their return from Nairobi, another classmate, Akur, has joined them as a volunteer to help work with younger students. Akur also passed her national exams and is looking for the opportunity to go on to university. As young girls realize they can succeed and develop their skills they become more and more interested in becoming part of the solution to South Sudan’s abysmal education record – only one in six women in the country is able to read. These young people are out to change what they see. 

Daniel will be coming to Denver Colorado next week. He will spend a month visiting the people who faithfully support the work he does in South Sudan (October 15 – November 13). The board will also spend time working with Daniel on evaluating our past year of work and brainstorming ways to accomplish more. If any of you would like to hear from Daniel while he is in the US, feel free to send a request to our email, so we can schedule some time for Daniel to share what he is doing. If you have a group who would like to be part of this effort, perhaps Daniel can connect with you and interact with the group. 

We on the board of PESS cannot tell you enough how deeply we appreciate your faithful participation on the work we are helping with in South Sudan. 

THANK YOU!

She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017
She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017
She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017
She's The First Conference in Nairobi Sep 2017

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