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,