The students are loving their classes!

Alok Girls’ Academy in Aweil, South Sudan

 The Alok Girls’ Academy is overcoming two major challenges for girls staying in school in South Sudan. One challenge is unqualified teachers. Many teachers in South Sudan are passionate and care about their students; however, they themselves have not received consistent education and proper teacher training. Valentino has worked very hard to ensure that the teachers at  our new Alok Girls’ Academy  are both passionate and highly qualified to provide excellent education to the girls.    The second challenge is that girls  in South Sudan have a high drop-out rate due to being unprepared for middle and secondary school. Girls often experience a huge disparity in the mastery of their subjects — often due to cultural obstacles that prevent them from consistently going to school. The Alok Girls’ Academy aims to bridge the academic gap where all the girls can learn and excel in their classes. The Alok Girls’ Academy’s first class is a blend of elementary and middle school grades with the intention to get all the girls up to speed to ensure that they are properly prepared for and can excel through middle school and high school. In our first few months, our first class of 160 girls in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are facing their academic challenges with great enthusiasm and determination. We will keep you posted on their progress!

The Alok Girls’ Academy is overcoming two major challenges for girls staying in school in South Sudan. One challenge is unqualified teachers. Many teachers in South Sudan are passionate and care about their students; however, they themselves have not received consistent education and proper teacher training. Valentino has worked very hard to ensure that the teachers at our new Alok Girls’ Academy are both passionate and highly qualified to provide excellent education to the girls. 

The second challenge is that girls in South Sudan have a high drop-out rate due to being unprepared for middle and secondary school. Girls often experience a huge disparity in the mastery of their subjects — often due to cultural obstacles that prevent them from consistently going to school. The Alok Girls’ Academy aims to bridge the academic gap where all the girls can learn and excel in their classes. The Alok Girls’ Academy’s first class is a blend of elementary and middle school grades with the intention to get all the girls up to speed to ensure that they are properly prepared for and can excel through middle school and high school. In our first few months, our first class of 160 girls in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are facing their academic challenges with great enthusiasm and determination. We will keep you posted on their progress!


 Support VAD while treating yourself and your loved ones to the healing, calming, and rejuvenating effects of essential oils. Elizabeth Bloom is a VAD Advisory Council member and has been an incredible addition to VAD.  Click  HERE  to see how Elizabeth Essentials is supporting the foundation and giving back.  From Elizabeth, “Eighteen years ago, I started creating essential oil remedies to help my clients better cope with the stress of today’s hyper fast, stretched-to-the-max world. Each blend I create has its own story and every blend shares a common goal: to help health-conscious consumers achieve a lifestyle filled with balance and rejuvenation in mind, body and spirit”

Support VAD while treating yourself and your loved ones to the healing, calming, and rejuvenating effects of essential oils. Elizabeth Bloom is a VAD Advisory Council member and has been an incredible addition to VAD.  Click HERE to see how Elizabeth Essentials is supporting the foundation and giving back.

From Elizabeth, “Eighteen years ago, I started creating essential oil remedies to help my clients better cope with the stress of today’s hyper fast, stretched-to-the-max world. Each blend I create has its own story and every blend shares a common goal: to help health-conscious consumers achieve a lifestyle filled with balance and rejuvenation in mind, body and spirit”


Meet Nicki Pfaff

 Nicki Pfaff volunteered at Marial Bai Secondary School and is an extraordinary teacher in the Bay Area that continues to support VAD and inspire her students. We are so happy to have Nicky’s support in South Sudan and her incredible outreach to her students and community. Nicky tells us,   “I became involved with the VAD around 2010 when I traveled to South Sudan with a group of teachers to train Marial Bai Secondary School teachers in curriculum planning. I spent about six weeks in Marial Bai, holding teacher and administrator workshops, and marveling at the tenacity of the students to get an education. Each student was wholly dedicated to their education, and it inspired me as a teacher to prepare their instructors as best I could. The students of the Marial Bai Secondary School have had a lasting impression on me, and my own teaching practice, and I am eternally grateful for this experience.”

Nicki Pfaff volunteered at Marial Bai Secondary School and is an extraordinary teacher in the Bay Area that continues to support VAD and inspire her students. We are so happy to have Nicky’s support in South Sudan and her incredible outreach to her students and community. Nicky tells us,
 
“I became involved with the VAD around 2010 when I traveled to South Sudan with a group of teachers to train Marial Bai Secondary School teachers in curriculum planning. I spent about six weeks in Marial Bai, holding teacher and administrator workshops, and marveling at the tenacity of the students to get an education. Each student was wholly dedicated to their education, and it inspired me as a teacher to prepare their instructors as best I could. The students of the Marial Bai Secondary School have had a lasting impression on me, and my own teaching practice, and I am eternally grateful for this experience.”


 On May 11, VAD co-founders Valentino Achak Deng and Dave Eggers joined author Khaled Hosseini for a panel discussion about how storytelling leads to positive action in the world. The panel was moderated by KQED’s Rachel Myrow at  The Tech  in San Jose, California. This sold-out event provided attendees with thoughtful conversation about the importance of education and how to best support refugee communities. It was followed by a reception where new and old VAD supporters could meet each other and chat with Dave, Valentino, and Khaled.   If you would like Valentino to come speak to your community, please email info@vadfoundation.org.

On May 11, VAD co-founders Valentino Achak Deng and Dave Eggers joined author Khaled Hosseini for a panel discussion about how storytelling leads to positive action in the world. The panel was moderated by KQED’s Rachel Myrow at The Tech in San Jose, California. This sold-out event provided attendees with thoughtful conversation about the importance of education and how to best support refugee communities. It was followed by a reception where new and old VAD supporters could meet each other and chat with Dave, Valentino, and Khaled.


If you would like Valentino to come speak to your community, please email info@vadfoundation.org.

When you support VAD you support girls' education!

Alok Girls’ Academy in Aweil, South Sudan 

 Our inaugural class of 160 girls in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 have finished their first month of school and are doing great! Thank you for making the dream of getting an education a reality for these girls. We will keep you posted on their progress in the coming months. To help us provide the girls with school uniforms, donate  HERE  today. 

Our inaugural class of 160 girls in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 have finished their first month of school and are doing great! Thank you for making the dream of getting an education a reality for these girls. We will keep you posted on their progress in the coming months. To help us provide the girls with school uniforms, donate HERE today. 


 (Pictured above from left to right: Daniel Davis of Alucik, Valentino, and Mascha Davis)   Alucik jewelry  is donating 15% of proceeds to VAD. Enter NOMADISTA into the promo code to receive a 15% discount on your purchases.  VAD’s Advisory Council member Mascha Davis brought her passion for jewelry and her commitment to helping VAD together by co-designing beautiful pieces of jewelry with Alucik Jewelry. Mascha worked in South Sudan for 5 years and the pieces were inspired by South Sudan’s cultural arts.

(Pictured above from left to right: Daniel Davis of Alucik, Valentino, and Mascha Davis)

Alucik jewelry is donating 15% of proceeds to VAD. Enter NOMADISTA into the promo code to receive a 15% discount on your purchases.

VAD’s Advisory Council member Mascha Davis brought her passion for jewelry and her commitment to helping VAD together by co-designing beautiful pieces of jewelry with Alucik Jewelry. Mascha worked in South Sudan for 5 years and the pieces were inspired by South Sudan’s cultural arts.


Success Story from Marial Bai Secondary School Graduate

 Meet Yel Anei - Aspiring Civil Engineer  Yel was born in 1988 near Marial Bai in the village of Manyiel. Everyone in Yel’s family was illiterate. During the war, he first stayed with his father to help protect the family’s cattle. But with constant school interruption, his father sent him to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya when he was fifteen. After peace came to South Sudan in 2005, Yel returned home to Manyiel and finished primary school.  Yel was so excited by the opening of Marial Bai Secondary School. He applied and gratefully joined the inaugural freshman class.  He remembers struggling with math during freshman year, but then falling in love with physics. He fondly remembers doing experiments in the science lab - complete with microscopes, Bunsen burners, and chemicals. In 2012, he was a member of the first graduating class. He remembers celebrating with all the students’ families, singing traditional songs and dancing traditional dances.  After graduation, he moved to Juba and underwent the complicated process of applying to university. He was accepted into the University of Rajasthan in India to study civil engineering. It was a tough academic curriculum but he got through it. He recently graduated and is going back to Juba where he hopes to get a job building South Sudan’s roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure throughout the country needs.

Meet Yel Anei - Aspiring Civil Engineer

Yel was born in 1988 near Marial Bai in the village of Manyiel. Everyone in Yel’s family was illiterate. During the war, he first stayed with his father to help protect the family’s cattle. But with constant school interruption, his father sent him to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya when he was fifteen. After peace came to South Sudan in 2005, Yel returned home to Manyiel and finished primary school.

Yel was so excited by the opening of Marial Bai Secondary School. He applied and gratefully joined the inaugural freshman class.

He remembers struggling with math during freshman year, but then falling in love with physics. He fondly remembers doing experiments in the science lab - complete with microscopes, Bunsen burners, and chemicals. In 2012, he was a member of the first graduating class. He remembers celebrating with all the students’ families, singing traditional songs and dancing traditional dances.

After graduation, he moved to Juba and underwent the complicated process of applying to university. He was accepted into the University of Rajasthan in India to study civil engineering. It was a tough academic curriculum but he got through it. He recently graduated and is going back to Juba where he hopes to get a job building South Sudan’s roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure throughout the country needs.


2nd Annual L.A. Celebrity Storytelling Event

 (Pictured above from left to right, storytellers: Hayley Terris, Henry Mortensen, Jenna Brister, Joe Tower, Dina Morrone)  Storytelling is an important part of South Sudanese culture. It is a source of education, knowledge and history. That is why we have chosen to honor this practice by hosting an annual storytelling event in Los Angeles. This year's event featured six of L.A's best storytellers who shared personal stories of growth, gratitude and courage in an effort to raise funds for our second campus, The Alok Girls Academy in Aweil. We were humbled by the support and generosity of this beautiful community and we look forward to continuing this tradition next year! 

(Pictured above from left to right, storytellers: Hayley Terris, Henry Mortensen, Jenna Brister, Joe Tower, Dina Morrone)

Storytelling is an important part of South Sudanese culture. It is a source of education, knowledge and history. That is why we have chosen to honor this practice by hosting an annual storytelling event in Los Angeles. This year's event featured six of L.A's best storytellers who shared personal stories of growth, gratitude and courage in an effort to raise funds for our second campus, The Alok Girls Academy in Aweil. We were humbled by the support and generosity of this beautiful community and we look forward to continuing this tradition next year! 


Highlights from Valentino’s Speaking Engagements

 Valentino spent nearly all of April speaking at colleges and conferences and attending events hosted by our incredible Board and Advisory Council members.  Valentino spoke at the Conference on World Affairs at CU Boulder, Portland State University and at Mercy Corp. with World Oregon in Portland, Oregon.  At each event, Valentino created a heartfelt connection with the audience and was asked to come back next year. We are so grateful for these events and the new friends we made. 

Valentino spent nearly all of April speaking at colleges and conferences and attending events hosted by our incredible Board and Advisory Council members.

Valentino spoke at the Conference on World Affairs at CU Boulder, Portland State University and at Mercy Corp. with World Oregon in Portland, Oregon.

At each event, Valentino created a heartfelt connection with the audience and was asked to come back next year. We are so grateful for these events and the new friends we made. 

Our Students Still need Your Help

Thank you for your support!

The VAD Foundation has big plans for 2018 and we need your help.

ALOK GIRLS’ ACADEMY

In 2018, the VAD Foundation will expand our commitment to girls' education in an unprecedented way. With your help, we will open our second campus, the Alok Girls' Academy, which will be the first all-girls boarding school in the region. Valentino has been working tirelessly to overcome the challenges of harsh road conditions and inflation to get the campus ready for our students, staff, and teachers.We aim to open in June 2018 with a class of 80 girls.

To support these efforts go HERE. 
 

DIVERSITY

Diversity plays a significant role in our mission of creating peace through education. At MBSS, our students and graduates have expressed how meaningful it was to live and study with members of other tribes and residents of other countries. At the Alok Girls' Academy, we are recruiting students from all over South Sudan. Our highly trained teachers and staff are from South Sudan as well as the neighboring countries of Uganda and Kenya.
 

PROJECT-BASED LEARNING

Our comprehensive curriculum creates real-world experiences for our students where they can bring their knowledge out of the classroom and into their communities. Chemistry class turns into business development and economic independence as our students learn how to make and then sell chalk, soap, and honey products. 
 

AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITIES

Teachers and staff will take part in hosting creative activities for the girls. Sports, art, dance, music, and extra tutoring are just a few examples of how the girls’ education will be enriched after classes and on some weekends.
 

ALUMNI NETWORK AND MENTORING

We are working to create a safe and supportive environment where the girls can complete secondary school. Our teachers and staff are predominantly women and can support the girls as they navigate the challenges of school and their lives at home. We are working with MBSS alumni to help mentor the girls as well. Our intention is to create an active alumni network that can provide support to our students. 

SUSTAINABILITY

Our students study by solar power and learn sustainable farming techniques to improve food security at the school and within their communities. The Alok Girls' Academy is located in a beautiful rural area where students can learn and then apply science-based and community-driven conservation techniques. 

UPCOMING EVENTS
Meet Valentino in April! 
April 9 - Dinner with Valentino at Frasca in Boulder, Colorado
April 9 - 13 - Speaking events with the World Affairs Council, Boulder
April 17 - 18 - Portland, Oregon - Speaking events at PSU and World Oregon with Mercy Corps
April 22 - Storytelling Event in Los Angeles with Valentino

Please go to our Events page for details.

Where Are They Now?

Our Graduates are Making a Difference

Ten years ago, Valentino Achak Deng and Dave Eggers founded the Marial Bai Secondary School to provide an exceptional education to the girls and boys of rural South Sudan. Since then, the school has become ranked one of the best schools in the country. Our students consistently score in the top percentile on the national exams. Marial Bai Secondary School is so successful that the South Sudanese government recently granted us a new, additional campus that we plan to open as the Alok Girls’ Academy, an all-girls boarding school. With your support, we are continuing to make a difference by offering peace through education in South Sudan. 


Meet Our Students

  MARY ABUK KUUR BOL  COMMUNITY MOBILIZER  Mary was expected to quit school and get married after primary school. But when she saw her brother flourish at Marial Bai Secondary School, she decided that she wanted to go to high school before getting married. Mary did just that and joined the freshman class in 2011.       She fondly remembers playing basketball, reading in the library, and nightly study sessions under the school’s solar powered light bulbs. She remembers the diversity of the student body—it was the first time in her life that she was able to live with and befriend South Sudanese of different tribes.      After graduating, she got a job at Concern Worldwide, where she is currently a Community Mobilizer. Mary works with farming communities on ways to improve their increase food security. Mary is now married with two children and is the primary income earner in her family. 

MARY ABUK KUUR BOL
COMMUNITY MOBILIZER

Mary was expected to quit school and get married after primary school. But when she saw her brother flourish at Marial Bai Secondary School, she decided that she wanted to go to high school before getting married. Mary did just that and joined the freshman class in 2011. 
     She fondly remembers playing basketball, reading in the library, and nightly study sessions under the school’s solar powered light bulbs. She remembers the diversity of the student body—it was the first time in her life that she was able to live with and befriend South Sudanese of different tribes. 
    After graduating, she got a job at Concern Worldwide, where she is currently a Community Mobilizer. Mary works with farming communities on ways to improve their increase food security. Mary is now married with two children and is the primary income earner in her family. 


  A NOTE FROM VALENTINO & DAVE    South Sudan continues to face significant challenges. Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the world’s newest country has suffered years of intermittent civil war and famine. But even in these dire times, young people go to extraordinary lengths to be educated. They, and we, see education as the only path out of the relentless cycle of civil war.    The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation is independent of the government of South Sudan, so even when the government cannot fund the country’s public schools, the Marial Bai Secondary School — consistently ranked among the best in South Sudan — can continue to operate. Your support makes this independence possible. And your support makes possible a new generation of well-educated young people with valuable diplomas.    Because South Sudan is a new country with a very low literacy rate, any high school graduate is sought-after for employment. Our graduates find work in international NGOs, healthcare nonprofits, the government of South Sudan, and as teachers themselves. Traditionally in South Sudan, many elementary school teachers are themselves recent graduates of secondary school.     Because the Marial Bai Secondary School is recognized as the one of the country’s best independent secondary schools, the government of South Sudan recently granted the VAD Foundation an entire campus, already built and ready to be populated with students. It had been constructed by another NGO, which could not operate it. Instead of allowing it to lay dormant, the VAD Foundation will, in 2018, transform it into the Alok Girls’ Academy, a boarding school for up to 144 young South Sudanese women.     There is no greater challenge, and no greater responsibility, than to make sure young women in South Sudan are able to pursue their educations without the pressure of domestic responsibilities and early marriage. With your help, we will make sure more and more young women achieve higher education and can then transform society in South Sudan.  This is all possible thanks to your support.  We are truly grateful. 

A NOTE FROM VALENTINO & DAVE

South Sudan continues to face significant challenges. Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the world’s newest country has suffered years of intermittent civil war and famine. But even in these dire times, young people go to extraordinary lengths to be educated. They, and we, see education as the only path out of the relentless cycle of civil war.
   The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation is independent of the government of South Sudan, so even when the government cannot fund the country’s public schools, the Marial Bai Secondary School — consistently ranked among the best in South Sudan — can continue to operate. Your support makes this independence possible. And your support makes possible a new generation of well-educated young people with valuable diplomas.
   Because South Sudan is a new country with a very low literacy rate, any high school graduate is sought-after for employment. Our graduates find work in international NGOs, healthcare nonprofits, the government of South Sudan, and as teachers themselves. Traditionally in South Sudan, many elementary school teachers are themselves recent graduates of secondary school. 
   Because the Marial Bai Secondary School is recognized as the one of the country’s best independent secondary schools, the government of South Sudan recently granted the VAD Foundation an entire campus, already built and ready to be populated with students. It had been constructed by another NGO, which could not operate it. Instead of allowing it to lay dormant, the VAD Foundation will, in 2018, transform it into the Alok Girls’ Academy, a boarding school for up to 144 young South Sudanese women. 
   There is no greater challenge, and no greater responsibility, than to make sure young women in South Sudan are able to pursue their educations without the pressure of domestic responsibilities and early marriage. With your help, we will make sure more and more young women achieve higher education and can then transform society in South Sudan.

This is all possible thanks to your support. 
We are truly grateful. 


What's New in 2018

ALOK GIRLS’ ACADEMY
In June 2018, we aim to open our second campus, a boarding school for girls called the Alok Girls’ Academy.  Currently in South Sudan, less than 1% of young women finish high school. We chose the boarding school model to provide a safe and supportive environment where the girls can focus on their studies. The campus will be free from the distractions and demands of their lives at home, allowing the students to complete their studies and be deterred from early marriage. With your help, in June of 2018, we will open the school to 144 girls.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
Our comprehensive curriculum creates real-world experiences for our students. Chemistry class leads to business development and economic independence as our students learn how to make and then sell chalk, soap, and honey products. We are exploring ways to expand our vocational training opportunities for our students and our graduates.

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS
Our students get the best possible education available in South Sudan. However, very few have the means to pay for college. We are now developing an endowment and a college placement program to better ensure that our high achieving students have a place in higher education. 

SUSTAINABILITY
Our students study by solar power and learn sustainable farming techniques to improve food security at the school and within their communities.


Where We Are Going 

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PROJECTS WE’RE FUNDRAISING FOR
Alok Girls’ Academy — $150,000
T
he government of South Sudan granted us a campus that we are transforming into a boarding school for 144 girls. Your support will help outfit the kitchen, build the teachers’ residences, and provide the students with bunk beds, mattresses, and school supplies.
Marial Bai Secondary School Renovations — $20,000
Help us repair the roof of our main campus.
Campus Supply Vehicle — $25,000
Help us minimize challenges around transportation costs by providing a vehicle that will support both our campuses. This vehicle will ensure that each school has the supplies it needs in addition to transporting staff and students when necessary..

EVERY DONATION HELPS
$5,000 can pay one teacher’s salary for an entire year.
$500 can send a girl to school for an entire year.
$75 can provide one set of science laboratory equipment.
$50 can provide one student’s textbook and school supplies for a year. 

HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Donate — every penny counts!
Volunteer — as a small non-profit with a small staff, we have ongoing needs that could benefit from your assistance.
Connect us with universities that can provide scholarships for our most promising students.
Host a house party, dinner at your favorite restaurant, or read What Is the What and include a fundraiser as part of your book club.

Update from our U.S. Director - May 2017

Dear Supporters,

I will be taking my first trip to East Africa this June and July. it will a strategic trip that is meant to make new business ties with organizations that want to partner and grow with us as we expand our work in vocational education, girls’ education and university scholarships for our MBSS graduates. 

  • Zawadi Education, which provides scholarships to gifted African secondary school girl graduates.

  • Andela, which provides a prestigious vocational training course to Africa’s best and brightest software programmers.

  • FilmAid Kenya, which works with youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp and other groups to provide arts and film training. For example, they are known for their campaign to bring refugee stories to the global public through their #teamrefugees campaign.

  • BRCK, which provides appropriate hardware technology for remote learners, including tablets that allow school children to learn even if their teacher is absent and there is limited electricity.

  • Xavier Project, which teaches multimedia literacy to South Sudanese refugees living in Nairobi.

In South Sudan, I will follow-up with NGOs that are potential partners such as Norwegian Refugee Council, Concern WorldwideUSAID VISTASGirls' Education South Sudan; University of Juba, UN Mission in South Sudan including UNICEF and World Food Program.

As a development professional with over seven years of field experience, I will also perform key programmatic tasks, such as:

1) Map out the stakeholders in South Sudan's education industry and the performance of their projects, meet with them and understand how decision making is made in these donor and implementation organizations, get a sense of their outlook for the next year or two in South Sudan.

2) In Aweil, research for designing the South Sudan Employment Initiative, get a sense of what buildings are available, what other NGOs are doing in the TVET (technical vocational education and training) and working with out-of-school youth to give them economic opportunities.

3) Strategic planning with field staff.

4) Collect stories from the students, teachers and members of the local community.

5) Meet with alumni from last year’s class and other alumni from previous years.

6) Collect other information required for grants and major donors.

If you're interested in arranging a personal presentation after I return in late July, please email me at yvonne@vadfoundation.org.

Sincerely,

Yvonne Chen (M.A. International Development Studies)

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