March 2017 News and Updates
March marks the South Sudan Secondary School certificate exams. Our 50 seniors who finished their coursework last December came back on campus to take the days' long exam. In February, Valentino visited his second home, the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where he spent nine years of his life before emigrating to the United States. Also in this issue--our annual report is hot off the press and we invite our Bay Area supporters to our first guest bartending fundraiser on April 7th.
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From all off of us at the VAD Foundation, I send you warmest wishes for a joyous holiday season.
Some time ago you made the decision to offer your generous support to the VAD Foundation. Over the past ten years you and others like you have created tremendous quality educational opportunities for South Sudan's people, for whom education is a luxury in comparison to years of being left behind by war and displacement. Here's what we've accomplished:
2900 youth educated, including 600 girls
45 South Sudanese teachers trained
27 teaching and non-teaching jobs created each year
18 buildings constructed, including a library, girls' dorimitory and state-of-the-art science lab
1 peace promotion workship hosted, with 15 participating secondary schools
2.5 acres of farmland planted with staple grains, vegetables and 345 fruit trees
Thousands of people in South Sudan educated about gender equality, hygiene and conflict resolution
Thank you for continuing to take the time to pay attention to the situation in South Sudan and supporting our important work.
Warmest wishes for a joyous holiday season,
P.S. In celebration of our 10th anniversary we have made this video about the VAD Foundation's history and impact. If you are not in a position to make a monetary donation, you can still help. Spread the word by forwarding this video to a friend. Share the work you are making possible and educate others on what still needs to be done in South Sudan. You have the power to grow our online community.
To read the original news letter, click here
The VAD Foundation was in the news recently. Read this excerpt from Nicholas Kristof's December 1st op-ed, titled "Forget the Tie, Give a Gift That Matters":
Sure, you can buy your uncle a necktie that he won’t wear, or your niece an Amazon certificate that she’ll forget to use. Or you can help remove shrapnel from an injured child in Syria, or assist students at risk of genocide in South Sudan.
The major aid organizations have special catalogs this time of year: You can buy an alpaca for a family for $150 at Heifer International, help educate a girl for $75 at Save the Children or help extend a much-admired microsavings program for $25 at Care. But this year my annual holiday gift list is special. I’ve tied some items to the election of Donald Trump, and I’ve looked for organizations that you may not have heard of:....
■ I’ve reported on crimes against humanity unfolding in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, and now the United Nations is warning of the risk of full-blown genocide. In this impossible situation, a South Sudan-born American named Valentino Deng is running a high school, one of few still functioning. It needs support so students can get an education and build their country.
You may remember Valentino: He’s the “lost boy” at the center of Dave Eggers’s best-selling book “What Is the What.” What he has done since, in founding this school, is even more impressive.
In celebration of our #10thAnniversary we have made this 10-year-anniversary video about the VAD Foundation's history and impact on Facebook. If you are not in a position to make a monetary donation, you can still help. Share the work you are making possible and educate others on what still needs to be done in South Sudan. So spread the word by forwarding the video to a friend.
Getting There: A Season to Give
As of December 18th, we are at 60% ($144,000) of our End of Year fundraising goal ($240,000). Thank you to those who have already made your gift this year. For those who have not, don't forget that this year you can also earmark funds for the South Sudan Employment Initiative or a university scholarship fund for MBSS graduates like Mary. Below are photos of Mary and our girl seniors from our trip in November:
Read the original newsletter here.
#GivingTuesday, an online philanthropy campaign taking place tomorrow on November 29th, is an auspicious day to tell thers about what causes you care about on your social media. For example, you can share an "(un)selfie" of yourself with a handwritten sign reading "I care about girls' education in South Sudan @VADFoundation #GivingTuesday."
Here are some things you can do to support the VAD Foundation this week:
- Monday: Go online and tweet, post, record, and share how you are giving back on 11/29. People will be sharing deals. Let's share plans for #GivingTuesday and make giving go viral!
- Tuesday: It's the big day! Give in any way you can. Even if you have already given this year, share your story online so that others know the causes you care about. Tag @VADFoundation so we can celebrate all that you do!
Remember to send us your high-resolution photos and any video footage from the day (email@example.com). (Or simply post your photos and video footage to our social media page by tagging @vadfoundation on Facebook, Twtter and Instagram.)
Getting There: A Season to Give
As of November 28th, we are at 30% ($72,000) of our End of Year fundraising goal ($240,000). Thank you to those who have already made your gift this year. For those who have not, don't forget that this year you can also earmark funds for the South Sudan Employment Initiative or a university scholarship fund for MBSS graduates like Mary.
Photos from the Field
Last week Valentino was in Marial Bai and he was able to upload a few photos via mobile messenger to our U.S. Office. The first photo shown below is of Asunta Atong Deng speaking outside in the assembly circle to local media about the importance of educating girls. Traditional views of the role of women in society are quickly changing in South Sudan because of examples like the 100 secondary school girl students who study at MBSS.
See original news letter here.
Like I do each year I wanted to take time to wish you a very happy thanksgiving and to thank you for giving hundreds of youth access to education. At this time, I am writing from Marial Bai. It is a beautiful day in the middle of the dry season here on campus. If I were sitting at the dinner table with you today, these are some of the things I would mention being thankful for:
First, I am thankful that all of the students and staff at Marial Bai Secondary School are healthy and alive. The students have everything they need to learn and become the future leaders of South Sudan. It is a miracle that the civil war has not touched our slice of heaven in Marial Bai. Several political developments in 2016--such as the introduction of a U.N. Security Council resolution to support an arms embargo for South Sudan–-make me optimistic that the international community may not have turned a blind eye to the atrocities. I am hopeful that the international goodwill that South Sudan enjoyed at Independence will return again soon. Qualified South Sudanese in the diaspora would be eager return to rebuild the nation as conditions improve. We will be hitting 'reset' after tens of thousands of lives have been lost, after three million people have been displaced and after almost half the population has met the face of famine. I pray to God every day that the fighting will end and we South Sudanese can as a nation rebuild together.
Second, I am thankful to America, a country known for taking in “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Lady Liberty gave me refuge 15 years ago, which meant the chance to start a new life as a resettled refugee--and eventually--to become a proud citizen. I have been able to, with the help of Mary Williams and Dave Eggers, tell my story to millions of people around the world. I also met wonderful generous people in America, like the DeBartolo family, who supported my dream to open a secondary school in my hometown from the time it was only a dream. I am happy to say that Marial Bai Secondary School is now the best-ranked school of its kind in South Sudan, enjoying its eighth academic year. Coming to America changed my life, and the lives of countless youth eager to get a quality education--and for this I cannot be more thankful. This November, I voted from abroad in a very important U.S. election. In South Sudan and countless other countries around the world, a non-violent concession like the one we saw in America is rare. While there remain deep divisions among the American electorate, the tradition of peaceful democratic transitions is something to be thankful for.
Last, I am thankful for meeting some of the people who sustain the VAD Foundation, amplify the Foundation’s message, and are eager to help us grow. Let me mention a few briefly. In August, I was asked to speak to and later mentor Africa’s next generation of leaders through the U.S. government-funded Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). I am happy to say that there was a cohort of ten young South Sudanese leaders who attended the convening, and several of them will be moving on to fellowships in America. On October 23rd, I returned to Nairobi after spending a month in my adopted homeland: I was in N.Y.C. for the final Clinton Global Initiative Members Meeting and for a refugees-themed “Making Media Work” workshop hosted by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I went ‘Facebook Live’ with my long-time friend Nicolas Kristof (whose media coverage over the years has brought our story to the attention of many of our current long-time supporters). In San Francisco, I spoke at the World Affairs Council about the first five years of nationhood in South Sudan. In Washington, D.C., I attended USAID’s first-ever Diaspora Conference. I also met several of our supporters and on each occasion, I felt loved and right at home--even when it was meeting for the first time. I am always so happy to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
So, Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you and your loved ones well on this special day. In closing, I would like to extend an invitation...because someday South Sudan will again be safe for traveling. I will invite you to come with me to break bread in my house. I will also show you the schools that you helped build. Together we will sit with the staff under the shade tree and we will recount the first years of the Marial Bai Secondary School, of South Sudan as a new nation. We will not spare the details about all of the ups and the downs. We will remember enrollment days when we had to turn away hundreds of youth because we did not have enough slots. We will remember the students who slipped their meals over the school fence so that the less fortunate might not starve. We will remember the joy in the village the day we opened our doors to our first class. We will remember the names of MBSS's star soccer players. Then we will see that MBSS graduate as an adult, and she will say to the younger generation, “I was able to get an education with the help of others and you will get an education too because I am going to help you.” And that we shall all be thankful for.
August 12th marked the end of the term. We celebrated the end of exams with a formal school ceremony. School reopened on Monday August 29, 2016. We are moving forward with our sustainable agriculture program, which the students have named “Drive for a Green Environment.”
It has been a busy summer here at the VAD Foundation. Marial Bai Secondary School is preparing for a USAID-sponsored writing workshop, during which thirty students from all of Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s high schools will converge and work together to write a chapbook about peace, conflict, and what South Sudan means to them.
Last month we updated you on our student sponsorships for the year. Each student sponsorship guarantees meals, school supplies, bedding, and mosquito nets for the year. At the start of the 2015 school year 60% of our female students had been matched with sponsors and 16% of our male students had sponsors.
The dry season is ending in South Sudan and students are returning to Marial Bai Secondary School for the new academic year. On February 2nd, 450 students will be returning to MBSS ready to learn! A fresh year brings new challenges for our students as they tackle tough subjects and learn new skills that will carry them to success in the future.