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,

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