Education
 Sudan
Project #11954

Unleash the leaders: 400 girls in South Sudan

by Project Education South Sudan
Vetted
Newly built desks arrive by truck
Newly built desks arrive by truck

In South Sudan it is rainy season. The almost daily rains cause valuable crops to grow. This is good, but the steady rains also make most roads impassable. The few paved roads, mostly in the capital city of Juba, are fine, but most roads in South Sudan are dirt, and become slick and rutted this time of year. With almost no roadside service available, most cars and trucks stay off the roads. The movement of goods, services and people slows and many kinds of work become nearly impossible. When dry season returns in October or November, there will be a rush to complete projects that are currently languishing.

In the few months before the rains arrived, Daniel was able to complete several important goals. Two wells were drilled, in the village of Pagook and at the Sunlight Primary school in Bor that Daniel runs. Two school roofs were repaired that had been damaged in recent storms. School desks, 60 of them, were built and delivered to two villages. Construction of goods such as desks have to be commissioned.

Materials need to be located, and carpenters hired for the work, as there are few off the shelf products such as this. When the shipment of desks is delivered, the village turns out to welcome the arrival. This is a big deal for young students who know they will be able to sit at a desk, rather than on a crude log bench or even on the dirt floor.   

Schools continue to operate during rainy season, so Daniel continues his work of vetting new students for tuition assistance. PESS now pays tuition and living expenses for 50 girls, much of this through serving as a partner with She’s The First in New York.

While we cheer the progress, it comes with much effort. Since there is no banking service in Bor that is able to receive funds from the US, Daniel has to travel to Juba to secure the funds to make tuition payments for students at the schools and to complete the other projects that PESS does. Although the road trip is only 125 miles, this can take a full day during rainy season, that is when the buses and trucks can actually even make the trip. The short hop by air can cost hundreds of dollars each way, and Daniel often has to pay for several days of hotel stay on these trips. Banking has become a challenge, so Daniel had to visit the bank daily until the funds were transferred to his Bor bank. Business in South Sudan is often not an efficient operation.

On top of this, Daniel’s family has experienced multiple health challenges this rainy season. Malaria and parasitic diseases are frequent visitors, and these bouts often frustrate Daniel’s effort to achieve the work goals he tries to reach. These conditions are hard to treat because, in the small clinics available to Daniel’s family, diagnosis is imprecise due to the lack of medical resources and effective treatment drugs are inaccessible.

Daniel remains grateful to his friends and supporters who offer him a great sense of encouragement and strength. Daniel maintains an amazing optimism and cheerfulness, even during a challenging rainy season. Thank you, each one, for your valued engagement!

The new desks bring smiles to students
The new desks bring smiles to students
Daniel with Students
Daniel with Students
School girls supported by Project Education Sudan
School girls supported by Project Education Sudan

Deborah is a high school student in Bor, South Sudan. “I’m very happy to write this letter to you as a sign of appreciation for all the supports you have done to me. I really appreciate your hard work. You have provided me with a powerful weapon to fight enemy called illiteracy through your support.  I will do my best to succeed...” she wrote a few weeks ago.

 

Education! Basic Education! That’s the powerful weapon Deborah is talking about. The unfortunate fact is that out of every six women in South Sudan, only one can read. No wonder Deborah is happy to be able to write this letter of appreciation! If it were not for you who read these reports and who generously contribute, Deborah and many young women like her would not have the privilege of fighting illiteracy through education. We, as well as Deborah, cannot begin to thank you enough. There is so far to go, BUT we have made so much progress.

 

Daniel Majok Gai, Executive Director of Project Education South Sudan, goes to his office each day in the town of Bor. Daniel has a cell phone and an internet connection. The internet works during the hours that the generator is running – sometimes. Weather, as well as electrical and mechanical problems, frequently disrupts communications, so Daniel has learned to work expeditiously when he has a good connection. He has a steady stream of young women coming to the door of his office, begging for financial help for school tuition and fees. The waiting list grows daily. Many of these young education starved students are from families with one or both parents missing, lost to years of war and fighting. Jobs are so scarce that even those who come from intact families seldom have the employment to support the education of their young people. Girls are usually given lower priority as students. This is changing gradually, and we are encouraged by these incremental improvements. Until the economy improves and there is more political stability, the help that comes from generous supporters in the US has immeasurable value. THANK YOU!

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Daniel, the Executive Director of Project Education South Sudan moved his young family back to South Sudan in the early fall of 2015. Daniel’s wife and two small children, along with 2 other young relatives were living in an apartment in Nairobi for a year and a half, waiting for things to calm down politically and militarily in South Sudan. Daniel was traveling back and forth from South Sudan to Nairobi so he could have time with his family while still continuing the work in the Bor area of South Sudan. Sporadic fighting between rebel and government forces finally died down enough for them to feel it was safe enough for the whole family to return to Bor. They have been there for several months, and now the town of Bor is filling back up and the surrounding villages and rural areas that Daniel serves are repopulating as well. Daniel rented an office in Bor, so that he can be more effective in the work he is doing. 

We continue our gratitude to all of you for sharing your hard earned dollars to support Daniel in his efforts to rebuild this impoverished and war-torn country. You are truly making a difference! Here are some of the recent accomplishments: 

  • Funds have been raised for two new wells at school sites to be drilled so that school kids at school can have water that is safe to drink, and to eliminate many of the intestinal diseases that keep kids from studying. The drilling of these wells has been contracted and the work will be done during this dry season (which lasts until May or June).
  • Families are returning to the Bor area, so the number of young people of school age is increasing, and so are the numbers of girls who are receiving scholarship assistance for their schooling. This program is very helpful, as there are many families who have parents who have died in the conflict or who are unemployed and do not have the money to send their kids to school. Project Education South Sudan continues its close working relationship with She’s The First on this school sponsorship program and there are several other girls who are sponsored by individuals giving directly to PESS. Sponsorship includes payment of school tuition and fees and other non-educational costs for girls who are in various schools in the Bor and Juba areas of South Sudan.
  • Listen to the goals and aspirations of some of the girls who are receiving sponsorship support from Project Education South Sudan: 

o   Grace wants a career as a doctor. She says being a doctor is a lifesaving work. “Doctors are second to God and I love to work with people, especially women and children,” 

o   Aluel wants to be a pilot. “I want to be the first female pilot in South Sudan.” She is passionate about her profession, and determined to complete at the highest educational level. 

o   Awuoi says, “I want to invent new things because our county is full of different minerals and I’m thrilled to have an engineering career.” 

  • PESS works closely with other NGOs who operate in Jonglei State, and the new office space in Bor gives Daniel the ability to interact with many of them and to better coordinate service to families in the area. PESS also works closely with the State Education Cluster to increase its effectiveness. Building community leaders and regularly meeting with them is a key part of the effort.
Carol Rinehart passes the elder stick to Daniel
Carol Rinehart passes the elder stick to Daniel

Look, we have a new Executive Director! After 10 years of tireless volunteer work, our founding Executive Director, Carol Rinehart, retired on June 1, 2015 and passed the elder stick to Daniel Majok Gai. Carol co-founded the organization with Isaac Khor Bher, a “lost boy of Sudan” after the two of them went to Sudan to find Isaac’s mother. Isaac and his mother had been separated by the countries long-lasting civil war for over 20 years. Education was the most important need in Isaacs’s home village of Konbeek, according to the elders. This request from the elders of Isaac’s village resulted in the launch of Project Education South Sudan. 

Daniel Majok Gai was another “lost boy of Sudan” who located to Denver Colorado in 2001, coming from the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. Daniel worked on his degree in Psychology at the University of Colorado in Denver, became a US Citizen, and joined the work of Project Education South Sudan. In 2009, he too made a trip with the organization to be reunited with his family in Pagook, a short distance from Isaac’s village. 

In 2011, Daniel offered to return to Sudan, shortly before South Sudan obtained its independence from the country of Sudan. Daniel went as a representative of Project Education South Sudan and decided to stay. On June 1 of this year, Daniel became the second Executive Director of the organization. He continues to live in Bor, South Sudan, making periodic trips to Denver to reconnect with supporters and friends.   

How can we thank all of you enough for sharing your hard earned dollars to support Daniel in his efforts to rebuild his war-torn country? You are truly making a difference! Here are some of the things that have been happening recently: 

  • Following the report of last month, Project Education South Sudan (“PESS”) continues to support the training in HIV/ AIDS education and in sewing, using the sewing machine purchased from the program. Several schools are participating: Langbar Modern Academy Secondary School (LMASS), Sunlight Primary School (SPS), Dr. John Garang Memorial of University of Science and Technology (Dr. JG. MUST) and Pagook Primary School (PPS). During the dry season (which starts in a couple months), PESS’s training of trainers will accelerate to prepare more students, teachers, and leaders. Each school received two sewing machines and the schools are working on ways to turn this resource into sewing businesses.
  • PESS is working closely with other NGOs who operate in Jonglei State, South Sudan, to look for space to open an office in Bor. This will increase the effectiveness of these organizations. PESS will work to increase community involvement in all its activities to build a more successful work ethic and the ability for members to apply for new jobs as they become available. PESS also works closely with the State Education Cluster to increase its effectiveness. Building community leaders and regularly meeting with them is a key part of the effort.
  • PESS also plans to drill three more wells with funds received. These wells in Pagook and at Sunlight Primary School provide clean drinking water for students and their families. The dry season is also when this work gets done, using a local company, PARAD, to do the drilling.
  • PESS also continues its girl’s education sponsorship program in cooperation with She’s the First, a successful worldwide program out of New York. Girl’s education is crucial to rebuilding South Says Daniel Gai, “I belief that girl education will tremendously improve our living standard as a country whole. The outcome is measureable even at this time. Educated women in our society today live a healthy life in our communities compared to less educated women. An educated woman knows how to make money which contributes enormously to the support of family.” She’s The First has agreed to increase their sponsorship of PESS selected students from 13 to 25 girls. Sponsorship includes payment of school tuition and fees and other non-educational costs for girls who are in various schools in the Bor and Juba areas of South Sudan. An example of the difference this program makes is seen in Abuk Deng Mayen, a young girl who has now completed her high school certificate and has been accepted at Mango Nursing School in Uganda for four years nursing degree.  A big thank to She’s The First for continuing Abuk’s higher education in Uganda.
Achol Jur Kur - in form 2, Langbar Modern Academy
Achol Jur Kur - in form 2, Langbar Modern Academy

Last Mango in Bor- HIV/AIDS Youth Leadership & Pad Production Programs a success!

(The success of this sustainable program is because of the tremendous support we have gotten from all our of our GlobalGiving donors!)

PESS South Sudan Director, Daniel Majok Gai and I met  with Bor County Commissioner, Abraham Mamer Ruk to follow up and give him a final report on the HIV/AIDS Youth Leadership and the Sanitary Pad Production Programs. He was impressed with our three month project and with the number of pupils we had in our training classes who will in turn train the students at their four schools. The highlight is the whole state of Jonglei, through the Ministry of Education, will embed it in the school curriculum!

Daniel and I also traveled to Pagook, Daniel's home village and one of the areas PESS supports girls' education and builds classrooms.

During the crisis in December of 2013 everyone fled the quiet village of Pagook as their homes were set on fire, cattle stolen and approximately more than a dozen killed by the so-called rebels. Where there were once family tukuls (homes) now grows prairie land.

But the community is rebuilding and starting to come back home. That's why PESS is committed to making sure students have classrooms to come back to. "So many buildings were burned down and destroyed but people are rebuilding and we are building classrooms which will be ready to open soon... when people come back," said Daniel.

The highlight of the HIV/AIDS youth leadership program week of course was the last few days of the sanitary pad vocational sewing program. Frustrated frowns turned into bright smiles as the women and girls developed their sewing skills. The sweet hum of sewing machines were accompanied by the girls and women harmonizing and singing songs of praise. It was magical. Their songs illustrated how happy they are to be learning a skill that will transform their lives.

One high achiever and PESS sponsored girl, Anai, a Sunlight Primary student, even sewed a skirt and top all on her own earlier in the week and wore it to class. She has never sewn anything in her life... ever! So, of course we had to have a fashion show! Abuk played music from her cell phone while Anai walked the fashion cat walk and twirled the bottom of her dress. Then others joined in on the fun. Even Daniel strutted his fashion style (keep your day job, Daniel - lol!)

Then it was time for our graduation ceremony. Each woman who completed the course received a certificate and a gift bag containing brand new sanitary pads sewn by women in the U.S. and other personal items. After testimonies from 28 girls and women, each school was gifted a sewing machine, scissors, notions and tools to continue on their own based on what they learned from the business model segment of the class.

We were honored to have a representative from the Ministry of Education's office was also a guest speaker. He encouraged the women to not just complete their studies but to also go on to become leaders in their own way in their communities and throughout South Sudan. "It is said that if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. This is very true, especially here in South Sudan," Langbaar Modern Secondary School Principal made a commitment to carry on the sewing program by encouraging the students to form a club at Langbaar and the other schools to teach others who were not able to take the PESS courses.

David, Ministry of Education health care specialist and one of our team members said he and Rebecca, our other health care professional, will take the model of the entire program (both the HIV/AIDS Youth Leadership and Menstrual Management) to other parts of the community and Jonglei state. "We can't keep this knowledge for ourselves. We must make sure everyone is getting HIV/AIDS information and knowledge."

They opened their minds to new ways of thinking like understanding how stigma and discrimination can not only hurt an individual but it can also destroy a community.

Policy makers from the county, state and local level have made a commitment to take ownership and see that these programs continue, expand and adapt to more communities and people in Jonglei state and even throughout South Sudan.

Despite political posturing at the capital in Juba and with the African Union and the failure of so-called peace talks South Sudanese, at least those here in Bor, are determined, with the support of Project Education South Sudan, to become an educated, thriving country contributing to the rest of the global community.

 

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Organization Information

Project Education South Sudan

Location: Denver, Colorado - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.projecteducationsouthsudan.org
Project Leader:
Daniel Gai
Executive Director
Denver, Colorado South Sudan

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