Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Girl Talk"

Pics: Girl Talk with Anita and NESEI secondary students in Yei, Sudan.

Some things are universal. Nerves before an exam. Sports. Music. Girls talking about boys.

We talk about it all with our NESEI scholars. Diane is generally the queen of conversation with the girls. She encourages them. Sometimes scolds them. She definitely holds them accountable for their actions. She laughs with them and sometimes cries with them.

It was my privilege to be included in some of the "girl talk" during this year's third term. Snippets of conversations - fit for public consumption - included:

"I will do better....(insert selected action here)... keeping time, studying, or cleaning the dorm." "We want to go to town for sugar, tomatoes, and juice."
"My parents make me do too much housework."

At the conclusion of the term, Diane, our intern - Cathy, and I all talked with the girls about their plans for the holidays and "summer break" (December, January, February). Our mantra? "Don't get pregnant."

We read the statistics about young women in Sudan and other countries. We know that a high percentage in African countries are forced into early marriages and receive minimal family planning instruction. We know that culture influences reproductive activities. So, we talk about these things with our NESEI girls. We discuss what the future might look like if they stay in school and focus on their studies. We ask them what the future looks like if they become teenage mothers. We talk about options, consequences of actions, and healthy choices.

We have 100 NESEI-sponsored girls, and hundreds more who benefit from participating in NESEI enrichment programs. We intend for them to all return safely and healthy for the first term of 2011. It's our New Year's resolution to do everything within our power to make it so.


Friday, December 11, 2009

GEM - The Girls Education Movement

Pic above: Catherine and Diane meet with a local teacher and Headmaster to plan a GEM activity.
Pic in the middle: gathered at Yei Girls Boarding Secondary School for a celebration
Pic below: Diane presenting a GEM Club certificate and pin to a young member.

"Parents, stop this." Advice given by a 14 year old boy, Barak, to parents assembled for an end of school year celebration. He was referring to early marriage of their daughters and sons. (Early marriage in Southern Sudan starts at age 11 in many cases.) Barak is a courageous and wise young man.

Barak is also a member of the GEM Club – the “Girls Education Movement” in schools throughout Southern Sudan. Here in Yei, NESEI has helped UNICEF and the Ministry of Education implement GEM Club activities. We hosted a TOT conference – “Training of Trainers” and sponsored a GEM Club celebration during November. In both instances, boys and girls from six local schools came together in support of education for girls and to identify ways they can encourage their families and communities to join in the movement.

My NESEI colleagues, Diane and Catherine are two bright and shining role models for GEM Club members. Diane is our Sudan Deputy Director and Catherine is our college intern. Both are from East Africa. Both young women are educated and strong. To ensure the success of the GEM Clubs in Yei town, they have hauled kids on dirt roads by motorbike, truck, and bus between schools and villages. They have organized meals, dances, and special events to engage our young people in learning more about gender equity and equality. They coordinate with Education Ministry offices, county officials, and teachers to rally enthusiasm for the GEM Club. They exemplify constant “movement!”

Diane. Catherine. Barak. All GEM Club enthusiasts. All a part of the NESEI family. Doing what? Building peace through education. One student, one school, one GEM Club member at a time. This is everyone’s responsibility. Join us. Show your support this holiday season by donating a gift in honor, or in memory, of a woman in your life who has advised you, taught you, or supported your own education.

Here’s how:

Go to
Our trusted fundraising partner, Global Giving, makes it easy to send a beautiful holiday card via mail or email to your gift recipient.


Mail a check to NESEI, 123 Ethan Allen Ave. Ste. 300, Colchester, VT 05446. Include a note telling us the recipient's name and mailing address.

Happy Holidays,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Meet Opani Rose

Pic above: Opani Rose
Pic below: Opani Rose (right) reading with a classmate.

Opani Rose lives with one parent and is the youngest of 3 children. She applied late for our 2009 scholarship program this year. The scholars had already been selected and the money was distributed. Opani was a very shy girl. She would not look directly in our faces. She cried because there were no scholarship positions left. Opani started walking to the NESEI office almost every day, each time asking to become a NESEI-sponsored student. Diane told her to provide her school report cards for future consideration. She did. She kept asking for NESEI to sponsor her. Finally, a space - and funding - became available for Opani.

Today she is a girl who has perfect attendance for NESEI activities. She has faithfully attended classes at school. She has overcome her shyness and learned to speak up. She now looks directly at her intended audience when talking and advises other students to do the same. This is a goal for all of our NESEI students. Speaking directly is a life-skill we emphasize.

Recently, I was chatting with some of our students about the upcoming presidential elections in Sudan. I posed the question, "do you think a young man could successfully become a legislator if the elders in his community believed him to be too young?" Opani replied, "Excuse me, madam. It does not matter if you are young or old, tall or short, thin or fat, black or white. If you are qualified, then you can be a leader."

Opani is a shining example of the emerging new leaders for Southern Sudan. She is a young woman ready to stand up and speak out about important matters in life. If she were running for an office, she would get my vote.

From Yei,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heartwarming Holiday Gifts

Yesterday, on so called "Black Friday," stores across the country were clogged with desperate shoppers. Why waste time and money buying candles, candy, and plastic trinkets made in China? There is a more rewarding gift for colleagues and friends - the gift of PEACE THROUGH EDUCATION.

Small donations to the Girls Rising scholarship campaign are easily turned into holiday gifts through Global Giving. Make the donations through and have personalized holiday cards sent to your recipients via email or snail mail. You can also choose to print out the pretty cards yourself.

Sound like a good holiday shopping alternative? It gets even better. Donations as gifts are tax-deductible! Those candies and plastic trinkets are not. And if you do this before 11:59 pm on Tuesday, Dec 1st, Global Giving will match your donation 50%.

We wish you a wonderful and meaningful holiday this year!
-Anita, Atem, Colin, Diane, Rachel & Robert

P.S. Could you help spread the word? Feel free to share this message with your friends on Facebook!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

100 Reasons to be Thankful


*All NESEI-sponsored high school girls. Only first names provided to protect identity.

Please help us send 200 Sudanese girls to high school in 2010. The school term starts in February, so we must meet the $50,000 campaign goal soon! To have your tax-deductible gift matched 50%, simply donate through this page:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Help Achol Get to Law School

(Achol pictured with her classmates. She is the 2nd girl from the left.)

Achol is getting a quality high school education because of the generosity of American friends. Your contributions to the NESEI Girls Rising Campaign are directly responsible for keeping Achol and 99 other girls in school. And when they graduate, your support will ensure these young women have scholarships to attend college and achieve their career goals.

Right now, you have the opportunity to leverage your investment in Achol's education. From now until December 1st, gifts to our Girls Rising Campaign are being matched up to 50% by our fundraising partner - Global Giving.

It's easy! Donate online at:

Thank you, again, for helping make dreams come true.

P.S. Our 2010 goal is to double the number of sponsored girls. Please help us raise $50,000 to provide scholarships to Achol and 199 other girls next year.

A Lawyers Hall of Fame?

There is a "Lawyer's Hall of Fame." Names appearing include Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, and Abraham Lincoln. Famous lawyers recognized on our television screens have been Perry Mason, Matlock, and pop culture favorite, Ally McBeal. I have not been able to locate a list of famous Sudanese lawyers. Yet. However, if I were looking into a crystal ball to predict the future, I think the name of one bright woman will be listed. Achol Deng.

Achol freely expresses her opinion. (Many teenage girls share that same trait.) She does not hesitate to question the status quo. She definitely embodies leadership. It doesn't hurt that she stands well over six feet tall and naturally commands attention upon entering a room. My colleague, Diane, and I have said numerous times in the past, "she would make a good lawyer."

While traveling in Warrap state to see Jimmy Makuach's home area, deep in the heart of cattle country, we stopped in the office of a local village authority. Here they are called "payam administrators." He recognized me. He reminded me that he was the father of a NESEI student. As I looked closely, I could see the resemblance of his daughter, Achol. What a pleasant surprise!

Of course, we talked about Achol, her performance at school and family matters. I asked him, "What is the biggest change you have seen in your daughter since she becamse a NESEI student?" He said, "She talks like you." Translated, that means her English has improved. Actually, she didn't even speak a word of English until beoming a NESEI student. She grew up speaking Arabic and has gained a strong control of the English language. (And if I have influenced her use of the words, "yee haw," "darlin'," or "y'all" then so be it.) But he sees the English language as her currency for success in the future.

When I asked him what he hopes his daughter chooses to become in the future, he replied, "I hope she becomes a famous lawyer." No surprise there.

I think she can do it. And I believe she will do it. She's closer now than ever before. In lieu of writing a love note to all the donors who help make it possible for Achol to stay in school, please accept this sincere, "thank you." On behalf of Achol's dad, Achol, and NESEI, we thank you for helping make dreams come true. I rest my case.

From Yei,

Pic above: Anita with Achol's dad
Pic below: Achol

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sister Gracy

She runs a dispensary and teaching hospital. She teaches English classes. She has been caring for babies in South Sudan for 20 years. She is firm, yet gentle. She easily laughs, yet becomes teary when describing some of the traumas she witnessed during war-time in Sudan. She is a Catholic nun originally from India. She refuses to stay in expensive hotels when invited to lecture at special events. She carries a little purple purse.

“She” is Sister Gracy. She embodies the spirit of compassion. She is a mentor for many young women, and for men too. And she is a founder of the only fully registered nursing school in South Sudan called “Mary Help Training Center.”

Sister Gracy is the kind of person who makes me want to be a better person. Without propagation, she’s even the type of woman who could inspire me to want to attend mass at the nearest cathedral if it might help me live more like her.

In a short amount of time, I have developed a great deal of respect for this woman. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs or unbelief, Sister Gracy represents a vision for a brighter Sudan. If I could cast a vote for an annual peace prize recipient, she would be a strong candidate.

In 2010, we will be encouraging some of our NESEI students to volunteer at her community health center. I feel confident that the experience and knowledge they will gain from being under her tutelage will have a ripple effect. Just imagine how many people in South Sudan will be indirectly impacted by her wisdom and perseverance. Certainly it will be one more way for NESEI students to “build peace through education.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vote Wisely

Pic above: students at Liberty FM in Yei for one of our debate sessions- topic was tribalism causes more damage than development in African countries.
Pic below: Colin with students from Nile HS who participate in our radio debate program.

Today I attended a drama presentation performed by local youth in the region. In fact, multiple dramas have been presented in the last two days as a part of the 2009 "Drama Festival" in Yei. I felt like a proud stage mom watching our NESEI-sponsored students show their thespian talents.

The theme of the drama festival was "Let Us Build a Democratic Nation through Peaceful Elections." With national elections coming up in Sudan, the topic was quite timely.

In the play I watched, student actors educated the audience about the importance of being involved in civil society. Instructions about voting were given. The importance of obtaining a national identity card was stressed. Educating yourself about the candidates and their qualifications was demonstrated. Influence of the media, bribery, and election violence instigated by police brutality were also acted out. Advice was given: "Vote wisely. This is your chance to select the right leader."

A mock election, with a big ballot box and and ink for thumbprints, was staged. Student actors portrayed all members of society lining up to vote. There were women and men, young and old, veterans, villagers, crippled people, expectant mothers, and all tribes represented. On this stage of theatrics, even a drunkard showed up at the ballot box to cast his vote. He offered a bit of comic relief for the playhouse.

Following the mock election, the votes were counted openly and a winner was announced. The "new President" gave an acceptance speech. In another comedic gesture, his first cabinet appointment was given to the losing candidate - "the Minister of Crime and Punishment."

As a part of the President's inauguration, a prayer was given by a female priest. In his inaugural speech, the President placed his hand on a Bible and said, "I want to execute my duties without fear in service to my people."

I am no Roger Ebert, but I give this show an enthusiastic ink-stained thumbs up! Hats off to the creative young people for taking the lead role in educating a new generation of voters in an emerging civil society. I can hardly wait for the results.

What We Think About

Pic above: Anita, Diane & Jimmy visit Wau.
Pic below: Anita makes friends on a road stop by sharing fresh muffins.

Generally, in the Fall of the year (as defined by changing seasons in the heartland of America), it is common for me to be thinking about "football time in Tennessee," upcoming holiday preparations, and questioning if any of the seasonal activities require me to dust off my stovetop or wipe away cobwebs from inside my oven in order to cook something. Colin says he usually thinks about the Yankees.

There is no typical "work day" for NESEI in Sudan. Our office is mobile. Essentially, wherever we are at any given moment is the location of the office. We are always thinking about our students, their retention in school, and their futures. Here is a bullet list of things that Colin, Diane and I have contemplated, analyzed, strategized or talked about in recent days. It does not reflect my traditional thought pattern for this time of the year. (Which is fine with me. No turkey basting is required for this list.)

Scholarships for more girls
Clean water and sanitation on campus and in the homes of the students
Student housing
Electrical power and generators
Food for the students & faculty
School supplies - paper, pencils, "slashers" (a type of sickle for cutting grass), etc.
The 2010 school calendar and NESEI work plan
Launching more GEM Clubs in other schools (Girls Education Movement programs)
Communication - phones, internet, hand-delivery of documents
Transport and fuel
Medical care for the students
NGO partnerships - strengthening the ones we have and developing new ones for greater impact
Local, regional, and national safety and security
Topics for the student radio debate program
Cows and dowries
Budgets for everything
In-country fundraising, as well as US fundraising
Expanding our NESEI programs in new schools and new states
Scheduling nap-time

For the NESEI Sudan team, these thoughts constitute our own Apollo mission to the moon. These thoughts drive us. They keep us up at night. They motivate us to live intentionally and with passion.

7 Days in the Life of NESEI

Pic Above: Jimmy & the NESEI Team with the Governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal.
Pic Below: Colin fixing the Hilux on Yei - Juba Road.

Random Fun Facts

1 visit to a primary school built by a former NBA player
1 meal shared with a Prince
2 meetings with state governors
2 hours spent trying to download photos to accompany this blog - only to read "attachment failed"
2 monkey sightings on the road
5 modes of transportation - footing, boda boda, land cruisers, 7 ton lorry, and planes
5 hours in the car between Juba and Yei composing this list and singing show tunes & tv show jingles ("Here's the story....of a lovely lady....")
6 secondary school visits in two states
7 tents for accommodations
12 gazillion herds of cows & bulls
15 NGO partner visits
18 government meetings
20 VIP sightings - (Ventilated Improved Pit-latrines)
168 cups of coffee consumed
300 cows and 30 bulls offered as a marriage proposal

Monday, October 26, 2009

Number One Priority? Food

Last week I met with a group of teachers at a secondary school in Twic County. (“Twic” rhymes with “preach.”) As part of an assessment for NESEI’s expansion in South Sudan, it has been highly educational for me to visit other functioning secondary schools in recent days.

The Twic school was in a very remote location. Arriving in a big 7-ton lorry, my colleagues and I parked underneath a tree and were immediately surrounded by kids. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. The smiles, enthusiastic greetings, and handshakes from the students always make visitors feel “at home” and “most welcome.”

Following a round of introductions and tour of the campus, I settled in for a roundtable discussion with the faculty and headmaster. In response to my question, “what is your number one priority for the students at this school?” they responded simply, “Food.”

Food security in this area is a real problem. The student population hovers around 600. Thirteen teachers teach 15 subjects. Many of the young people are IDP’s – internally displaced persons – returning home from camps sustained by humanitarian aid groups.

This makes a NESEI-sponsored school garden seem like a no-brainer. But until seeds & tools can be purchased for planting - and crops can grow until ready for harvesting - other solutions need to be considered. Calculations were done and the faculty suggested that 9,000 Sudanese pounds would go a long way toward feeding the students for an entire year. Blink.

For an equivalency of approximately $4,000 US dollars, they are saying they can feed over 600 people. Huh? Now, I have not yet done the research on this number for this area, but if this is the case, then it costs around $6 per person for food for the year. I’m inclined to think this is a monthly amount, rather than the yearly total, but I do not cease to be surprised in Sudan.

With all due respect to the Starbucks that I lovingly frequent in America, one less venti-flavored-double-shot latte a month could pay for a kid’s school meals here in far-away Twic County. This is something I will think about when I order my next cup of coffee. Or, better yet, the good people at Starbucks and other good java shops will read this and decide to expand their outreach to include the provision of meals for this group of kids in the African bush.

I choose to employ optimism as a strategy. Do you think it could work in this case?

From Twic, South Sudan,


P.S. The pics above are from NESEI gardens in Yei, South Sudan. The internet here was too slow to upload Twic pics. Hopefully I'll have a better internet connection in coming days.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lessons Learned & A Second Chance

Colin Nelsen has been with NESEI from Day 1 on the ground in Sudan. He has sweated with local laborers digging river sand to make building bricks; he has negotiated more deals regarding land, capital assets, and labor issues than he probably cares to remember; and I'm willing to bet that he has changed more than 250 tires in just this last year on trucks, land cruisers, motorbikes, and bicycles to help keep NESEI moving - literally. He has briefly traveled with me stateside trying to raise awareness about the importance of education in a post-conflict country like Sudan. However, independent from the accolades I could heap on him simply for being a great project manager, my respect for Colin grew yet again this last week.

NESEI has a sponsored student who has recently made some poor choices. We can all relate to being a teenager trying to create an independent identity. Bless her heart, she is strong and smart, but partly a rebel. She is not a big believer in the status quo. (Her "scrappiness" will serve her well in later years I believe.) But at this moment in time, she has decided to test the patience of her teachers and other school faculty. We have experienced some challenges with her. She was expelled from one of the public schools for her behaviors.

However, because we are NESEI and because we have a unique group of people working with the NESEI-sponsored students, we will not allow this student to "get lost" in the bush of Africa. So, Colin began communicating with this girl's grandfather and uncle - who serve as her guardians. Colin also called one of our NESEI partners - Health Net/TPO - to arrange counseling for this student. He picked her up and drove her to her first appointment with a counselor. Following that meeting and after multiple conversations with her grandfather and uncle, Colin arranged for her registration in a new school, giving her a fresh start and a second chance at achieving education. Today is her first day back in classes after being expelled.

And by the way, Colin made all these arrangements in the same few days that he was trying to repair two generators, organize supplies for a new rabbit hutch to be built at the school, and help me finalize some documents requesting more money to sponsor more girls!

NESEI knows this girl. We know her family. She sings like an angel. Her smile could provide enough wattage to light up New York city. She likes to read. One day, she would like to travel to Mozambique. Her favorite food is chicken - with french fries. She would like to become a health care professional - possibly even a doctor. Her grandfather and uncle are good men. They have attended school meetings. They care about this young family member and her future. They know - and we know - what she is capable of achieving.

If you are in America reading this story, and you have contributed to our Girls Rising Scholarship campaign, then you too are a part of this story. NESEI does not "assign" students to donors for various reasons. But we do KNOW the scholarship recipients and want our donors to feel assured that we are wisely investing your dollars into the lives of "our girls." All of us are learning lessons along the way. Some days we experience great success; other days, we feel greatly challenged. On those days, it's nice to remember that people care and second chances are available to help make things right.

From Juba, the capitol of South Sudan,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From the Office of NESEI Yei

I have never felt better about NESEI in Sudan than I do now. So many fantastic opportunities and people coming together.

My apologies for slow communication. Our internet and generators are still out at CTC - though they may be fixed soon. Today I'm using UMCOR'S internet and power.

Yesterday was lovely! I spent the afternoon at the school with the girls. The microscope is a hit. However, it requires power, and there is no power at Yei Girls. So, I brought it back home with me and will try to charge it (somewhere). I read the American letters and our girls are preparing responses. I read aloud while they were sewing sanitary pads. On Saturday, the about a dozen girls came to the house to sew pads. There is nothing better than the sound of the girls filling up the house with talk and laughter. They also sang "Happy Birthday" to Colin!

The S4 girls went to Kampala last week for exams. During term 2, no one was admitted overnight to the hospital! We are happy about that. The well still needs attention at Yei Girls. Flowers are blooming on campus. And, veggies are growing in the garden.

I have pictures!....of the momma & papa rabbits and the babies!!!! Will try to get those sent. They are adorable! And!....more babies are expected next week! We are raising rabbits at Yei Girls! Today, a hutch is being built so they don't become dog-food. (literally).

Health Net / TPO is taking good care of our girls on an "as needed" basis. Liberty FM deserves a million thanks for hosting the radio debates. All the students are crammed into an itty bitty studio where the temperature is more than a thousand degrees, but the Liberty folks are generous with their time and attention for us.

The impact NESEI has in the community is far-reaching. It is not uncommon for us to receive requests from young women who desire sponsorship from NESEI. One such letter was handed to me this past weekend. Here is the text:

To the Office of NESEI Yei:
Dear Madam Anita, With honour and respect to your office I submit my application to your office for the following reasons. I am Sudanese by nationality aged 17 years old in Senior One. The reasons why I apply is because I don't have someone to support me in my education. I am an orphan and am staying with my grandparents. But they have no power of supporting me in education, but my uncle in our clan told me that I should be married by an old man. I refused. I came to Yei Girls and I am the one who paid my school fees. I use to be a house girl. But I have interest to continue with my eduation. I will be very grateful if you put my application into your consideration. Thanks.

You can help us respond positively to young girls like this. Please give to the Girls Rising scholarship campaign. This girl could join the other NESEI-sponsored students in receiving a quality education to help improve her future.

Would like to write more, but UMCOR staff is leaving and I need to go too. Will try to be in touch from Juba.

Thanks all for your support!


Last week I attended an education workshop with Diane and the Yei Girls Boarding Secondary School headmistress, Rita. It was held in the South Sudan capitol of Juba. Approximately 100 people attended.

There were educators from Juba University, representatives from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, project managers from other NGO's. A variety of people from the education sector in South Sudan focused for 3 days on how to train, and retain, quality teachers. For obvious reasons, quality teachers are important. But for a place like South Sudan emerging from war, the statistics compel us to stay the course and work toward scaling up the educational systems. To improve the statistics, attention must continuously be given to producing quality graduates who become quality teachers.

Here are some of the South Sudan numbers provided during the workshop:

According to 2008 data provided by EMIS, 1,327,892 pupils were enrolled in 3,152 schools.

398,536 pupils were learning under trees.

26,438 teachers provided instruction.

Less than 40% were professionally trained.

Less than 7% are female.

To increase the number of trained teachers, the following programs have been implemented:

1) Pre-service national teacher training institutes (TTI)

2) In Service trainings

3) Fast track teacher training program (FTTP)

4) Accelerated Learning Program

5) Intensive English Course for teachers

6) Distance education

The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is moving to upgrade the performance of students and teachers.

NESEI is here to help. We join in the effort to produce strong, new leaders.

From Yei Town,



Hey everyone,
I'm sorry to report that most days the internet here is excruciatingly slow for working on the blog. Feel free to email me your questions and comments at Thanks and can't wait to catch up with you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Sanitary Pads Matter

We all know that when girls stay in school, everyone benefits: marriage and pregnancy are delayed until adulthood, eventual wages increase by 25 percent, and more than 90 percent of those eventual wages are reinvested back into families. But are you aware of the transformative power of the sanitary pad?

Each year, Sudanese girls will stay home from school due to shame about their menstrual cycles. Many girls never return to class. NESEI girls are making “Comfort Kits” to improve student truancy and promote girls’ education. Everyone is benefiting.

The Comfort Kits include six washable pads, three pairs of underwear, soap, Vaseline, a comb, and a note of encouragement from one of our girls.

Each Kit costs $25 to produce. How many Kits can you underwrite? 1, 5, 50, 500? Think big. A $500 donation produces 20 Kits and puts 4 girls through school. That’s an impact!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome Home

"Welcome Home!" was one of my favorite greetings this morning at the Yei airfield. A small population of residents, volunteers, and aid workers gathered around the multitude of land cruisers parked at the end of the dirt airstrip. Brief exchanges were made between old and new friends to swap current phone numbers, comment about the progress in Yei, and coordinate visits in the coming days.

Trees have been cut down along the Yei main road. Planted in the 1800's, the stumps are lying along the roadside. They will likely become firewood and charcoal for cooking. With the removal of the trees, the red dirt road has doubled in width. This allows for greater safety of pedestrians and cyclist sharing the road with the growing number of vehicles driving in and out of Yei town.

I arrived in town to find some of our NESEI students diligently sewing to increase the number of comfort kits in stock. The suitcases carried earlier this year by the South Carolina team have been transformed into inventory containers. Handmade sanitary pads fill them up.

My colleagues, Diane and Colin, gave me a tour of our current residence. We have graduated from the tents of 2008 and the mud huts of early 2009 to an honest-to-goodness real brick house. We have electricity in the evening and running water, most days. The new place definitely gets a "thumbs up!"

I'm willing to confess that I napped most of the afternoon. The sun, travel, and time zone changes contributed to some "horizontalization."

Unpacking has been completed and I'm happy to say that all the supplies arrived safely! Even the glass slides to be used along with the new microscope for science class successfully survived the 5 airplanes it took to get here.

From Yei Town,

P.S. Stay tuned for lots of pictures in the next post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

From the States to Sudan - Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Tucked inside my bulky, big green suitcase are letters that have been written by young people in the United States. They are addressed to our NESEI students. I think you might enjoy reading excerpts from them. It gives a glimpse of the stories and questions I will be sharing with our NESEI girls in coming days.

Brenna from Wisconsin writes: "I love to hang out with my friends. They mean the world to me. During the summer I am really involved in 4-H and I love to show cattle. When I show it reminds me of a beauty pageant for cows!...I have 3 jobs so I work all the time. One of my jobs is to milk cows and I really love it...What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like to do in your free time?"

17 year old Julia writes: "I am in the 12th grade - which is the last grade in high school. I am very excited to graduate because then I will start college and move away from my parents. Not that I don't love them, I just can't wait to be independent for the first time in my life. It's going to be an exciting adventure!"

Adriana from Indiana writes: "My school is a boy + girl school. It is not a boarding school. We go from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., then go home. I want to know about your foods. What kind do you have? In America we eat grains, meat, and dairy products. We also eat veggies and fruit."

Mackenzie from Wisconsin writes: "The things that I am a part of in school is Future Farmers of America (but we just call it FFA). I am also in choir because I love to sing. I'm not involved in any school sports but I go to the games and support my friends and cheer them on. I am also involved in a dance class after school...I am out of things to say but I'm sure once I give my letter to Anita I will think of lots more!"

Kaitlin from Illinois writes: "In my spare time, I like to read and write. I am also a girl scout. I help others by performing community service. Plus, I've been told our cookies are really good too."

9th grader Tori writes: "I will be taking a Driver's Education class this year. I'm very excited to be going into my first year of high school. I go to the library often so that I can check out new books to read...I loved my week of Sudan classes and I look forward to hearing more about all of you and doing what I can to help kids all over the world. I thank you for your wonderful influence and I can't wait to hear back from you."

We will use these letters in a variety of ways - as English lessons, writing practice, and to introduce our girls to the many kids in America who want to make a connection with them.

I wonder, what are YOUR questions for our girls? Drop me a line and I will gladly ask them on your behalf. Stay tuned to the blog for their responses.

From the road,


En route

Hey crew -

I just left Nairobi, Kenya. Stayed at "The Heron Hotel Limited" - really nice with wireless. Ironically, the hotel replaced their water heater this week, so I'm already transitioned to cold showers in preparation for Yei. :-)

Flights have been smooth. Watched too many movies and slept the rest of the time. The new school microscope has made it all in one piece so far!

The weather in Nairobi was about 65 degrees and beeeeauuutiffffulllll. Now I’m in Entebbe, Uganda at our favorite lodge – Frank’s Place. I’ve been reunited with my pink, green & blue rain boots, which have been stashed away at Frank's Place since the last rainy season. Since my luggage was so overweight when I was checking in, I sacrificed the new black & white floral boots. Sigh.

Oh! ....One of the best parts of the week? ....Going to a wedding celebration of a Sudanese woman who just became the 4th wife of a Sudanese man. Traditional dancing, food, and the men & women attending the event separated into different rooms. About 60 people in attendance. I spent about 4 hours with Sudanese women in the kitchen and tucked away out of site from the menfolk. Many were relatives of my friend & fellow traveler, Jimmy, so I learned a lot of "family news." Surprisingly (hardly) they said to me, "You are so social!"

Oh! ….A nice greeting was sent from the Universe....saw a shooting star in the sky the other night.

I'm well and hope everyone else is too. Can’t wait to be reunited with Diane and our students.

From the road,


Monday, September 21, 2009

Come to Sudan with NESEI

Sunscreen. Check.
Passport. Check.
Duct tape, flashlight, and mud boots. Check.
NESEI friends and family. Check and check.

Via this blog, I’m taking you with me to Sudan. You will travel safely inside my rugged little laptop. You will appear in front of me each time I log on. And you will get 12 weeks in East Africa with the NESEI Sudan family and me. Your ticket cost much less – you simply sign up for the blog and “tra-la” – you are there. Free admission! And no shots from the health department!

This is my 7th trip to South Sudan. It has yet to grow old. I am as excited this time as I have been each time previously. I go in anticipation of seeing how “our girls” have matured; of re-discovering the joy of African life with beating drums, goats bleating, and hut-living. And we go together to experience the achievements of our students. I wonder which students have improved reading skills? What artwork has Rahama completed recently? What has Musoke helped the girls plant and harvest in the school garden? Will my favorite “banana lady” and favorite “chipati man” still be serving customers on the roadside?

Come on along. Pour a cup of coffee. Click on the blog. Sit back. Enjoy the ride. I can guarantee we are in for an adventure.

From the road,