With our generous partners and dedicated staff, together we are a beacon of hope in South Sudan. 

What Valentino and his staff have achieved in Marial Bai continues to amaze. While so many nonprofits have had difficulty executing plans in South Sudan, Valentino’s school has grown exponentially while adhering to a very lean budget.
— Dave Eggers

Marial Bai Team


Valentino was born in southern Sudan (now South Sudan), in the village of Marial Bai. He fled in the late 1980s during the second Sudanese civil war, when his village was destroyed by murahaleen—the same type of militia that currently terrorize the Darfur region of Sudan. Deng spent nine years in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, where he worked for the UNHCR as a social advocate and reproductive health educator. In 2001, he resettled to Atlanta, GA. Deng has toured the United States speaking about his life in South Sudan, his experience as a refugee, and his collaboration with author Dave Eggers on What Is the What, the novelized version of Deng’s life story. As a leader in the South Sudanese diaspora, Deng advocates for the universal right to education. In 2006, Deng and Eggers established the VAD Foundation to help rebuild South Sudanese communities by increasing educational access. In 2015, he was the Minister of Education for Northern Bahr el Ghazal and oversaw more than 800 state run schools in addition. Now, in addition to running the VAD Foundation's secondary school (Marial Bai Secondary School), Valentino is the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Black Rhino (The Blackstone Group). He lives in Nairobi with his wife and four children. 

U.S. Team

Kira Siebert, DIRECTOR of Special Initiatives and Development

Kira connects U.S. donors and support with our team in South Sudan making sure the students and staff have what they need to succeed. Prior to VAD, she worked on community-led programs in conservation, health, and education as the Director of Communications and Development at the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. She created thriving donor communities and managed fundraising events as Director of External Relations at the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Art in political science from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon. She is thrilled to bring her passion for education and equality to VAD. 

Dave Eggers, Board Member, co-founder

Dave is the author of several books, including You Shall Know Our Velocity, winner of the Independent Book Award, and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of France's Prix Medici. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in South Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Deng and dedicated to offering quality education opportunities in South Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces books, an eponymous quarterly journal, and a monthly magazine (The Believer). In 2002, with Nínive Calegari, he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California–Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children. 

Phil Mays, Board Member

Phil has been part of Valentino's life before What is the What or the foundation were even an idea. Phil is a principal of RocaPoint Partners. Phil was formerly the Portfolio Director and Legal Affairs Manager for EverBank Commercial Advisors, a division of EverBank (NYSE: EVER). He led the creation, implementation and management of EverBank’s commercial special assets department containing more than $1.3 billion in underperforming CRE backed debt including the management of the FDIC assisted purchase of Bank of Florida in 2010. Phil has 20 years of real estate investment, development and value maximization experience. He received his undergraduate and law degree from the University of Florida and a Leadership in Financial Organizations certification from The Harvard Business School. 

Tiffanie DeBartolo, Board Vice President

Tiffanie is the Chief Executive of the record label, Bright Antenna. She wrote and directed the film, Dream for an Insomniac, as well as authored the novels, God-Shaped Hole and How to Kill a Rock Star. DeBartolo has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Scott Schumaker, Board Member

Scott is the Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Bright Antenna Records. Schumaker has a B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado. Schumaker is a former professional triathlete. 

Reece Hirsch, Board Secretary

Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius specializing in privacy, security and healthcare law. Hirsch received his J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1990, where he served on the Southern California Law Review. He received his B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University in 1982. In addition to serving on the board of directors for 826 National, Hirsch is a member of the editorial advisory boards of Bloomberg/BNA's Health Law Reporter and Healthcare Informatics. He is the author of three thrillers, The Insider, The Adversary, and Intrusion that draw on his background as a privacy and data security attorney. 

Ann Goldblatt, Board President

Ann has been active in the non-profit sector for 30 years.  She oversaw capital campaigns and event planning for both Wildwood School and Windward School in Los Angeles. Ann assisted Dorothy Green, the 1st president of the environmental advocacy non-profit Heal The Bay in the organization's early days.   She has been a long term mentor/tutor to students through the Virginia Avenue Project after-school program for the Santa Monica public school system.  Ann received her B.S. in Secondary Education, English & French, from Ohio State University and attended the Interior Architectural Design program at Santa Monica City College.  She is currently an art consultant to several fine artists in Southern California.

Greg Larson, Board Treasurer

Greg first joined the VAD Foundation at its beginning, serving as associate director from 2007 to 2011 and helping oversee the establishment of the Marial Bai Secondary School. He now works at the U.S. Treasury Department as a senior advisor in the international affairs division. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in literature and from Harvard Kennedy School with a master's in public policy. 

Leslie Danoff, Board Member

Leslie, a former television news and public affairs producer, writer and researcher, is a pro bono communications consultant to non-profits. Among her professional highlights: working with Bill Moyers in public television and with Walter Cronkite at CBS News on Election Night. At CBS, Leslie worked on News Specials and documentaries and developed multi-part series for the Morning News. At New York’s public television station, WNET, she won an Emmy for a public affairs series devoted to critical New York City issues. The mother of three sons, Leslie is an independent documentary filmmaker, an artist, and a graduate of the first class of women at Yale. She formerly served on the Board of Directors of Rainforest Trust.

Matthew Murray, Advisory Council

Throughout his extensive career, Matthew Murray has worked at the intersection of U.S. foreign policy, international law, commerce, and political economy. He served the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He helped lead the Department’s efforts to apply commercial diplomacy, strengthen the rule of law, and build mutual prosperity with 117 countries in the EMEA region, as well as the European Union and African Union. He developed innovative programs to build good governance and champion entrepreneurship in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Tunisia, Kenya, and Nigeria. Then, as Senior Advisor on Governance and Rule of Law at the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, he developed strategies and design development assistance programs to counter systemic corruption in critical nations. Mr. Murray has also worked in the private sector, including as Corruption Risk Manager at TNK-BP Management Ltd., then the third largest producer of oil and gas in Russia, leading a corporate task force to establish a new system of compliance with anti-corruption laws and ethics performance throughout the 65,000 person workforce. His work continues in the field of political economy to include writing, teaching, speeches, and testimony on the importance of voluntarily adopting best practices of ethics, corporate governance, and social responsibility.

Elizabeth Bloom, Advisory Council

Elizabeth Ann Bloom (D.H.M., D.I.Hom.) is the founder and creative force behind Elizabeth Essentials, an essential oil company sold worldwide. Elizabeth has diplomas in homeopathy, naturopathy and holistic medicine and has been a holistic health practitioner for more than 40 years. She founded and managed the Doree South Clinic in Los Angeles and the Well Center in London, both innovative leaders in the field of holistic medicine. A popular speaker, Elizabeth has appeared on Lifestyle Magazine and in Deepak Chopra’s video series, Women’s Health. She is on the advisory board and is a contributing editor to eMagazine Invisible Illnesses: SOLVED and is on the advisory board of the Well company in New Orleans.

Jen herman, Advisory Council

Jen Herman brings nearly 20 years of digital entertainment, social media, video games and technology experience to her role as founder of Lucky 29 Media. Ms Herman's extensive professional background includes experience in product development, licensing, business development, distribution and marketing at leading entertainment and gaming companies including Viacom/MTV, Electronic Arts, Zynga and a number of Bay Area mobile gaming companies. 

Megan Carroll, Advisory Council

Megan Carroll is from San Diego, CA. Last year, she served as a White House Fellow at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations’ Washington, DC office. Prior to this, she led the United Nations Development Program’s Democracy and Participation portfolio in South Sudan focused on the constitutional review process and elections. She has also served as Acting Director/Deputy Director of The Carter Center’s Democracy and Conflict Resolution Programs in South Sudan and Sudan; Democracy and Governance Advisor to USAID at a critical juncture when the mission transitioned from a U.S. Consulate to Embassy in a newly-independent South Sudan; and an international observer for South Sudan’s referendum on independence. 

Charles Crompton, ADVISORY COUNCIL

Charles Crompton is a judge in the San Francisco Superior Court. Before that, Crompton was the Legal Director at Glide Foundation, one of San Francisco’s largest social service providers. Crompton founded a free legal clinic at GLIDE in 2012, working pro bono while still a partner at a private law firm, Latham & Watkins LLP. In 2014, Crompton left Latham to dedicate himself to GLIDE full-time. GLIDE sits in the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s most neglected neighborhoods. It has served the poor and disenfranchised there for 50 years. It provides emergency supplies to thousands of people, books thousands of shelter beds, and helps homeless people move into permanent housing. GLIDE also provides HIV testing, mental and primary health care, women's programs, crisis intervention, an after-school program, creative arts and mentoring for youth, literacy classes, computer training, job skills training, drug and alcohol recovery programs, housing with case management, and much more. Since 2005, Crompton has edited a Matthew Bender treatise, Crompton, Dunwoody & Tigar, California Contract Litigation.


Davis is the founder and owner of Nomadista Nutrition, a private nutrition practice based in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in numerous publications and she in 2016 she gave a TEDx talk about her international work. From 2010-2015, Davis worked with humanitarian aid agencies in Geneva, Switzerland and Africa, managing health and nutrition programs. In Africa, she worked in Gabon, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Chad, where her work mainly focused on the treatment and prevention of malnutrition in children and women. 

She is a graduate of the University of WI-Madison with a degree in nutritional science / dietetics, completed her dietetic internship at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Los Angeles and earned a master's degree in public health from the University of CA-Los Angeles (UCLA).

ASHA RAo, ADvisory Council

Rao is an investment manager with the Community Lending and Investment group at Wells Fargo. The group lends to and invests in Community Development Finance Institutions and affordable housing developers in support of economic development, job creation, and affordable housing. Based in San Francisco, Asha underwrites and manages a portfolio of EQ2s and loans throughout a multistate region.

Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2012, Asha worked at Standard and Poor’s in New York and interned at the NASSCOM Foundation in New Delhi. She graduated with a BA from Emory University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


DeBartolo Family Foundation
Shinemaker Foundation / Tiffanie DeBartolo & Scott Schumaker
M. Night Shyamalan Foundation
James Gleick & Cynthia Crossen
Neil & Anna Mintz
Jolie-Pitt Foundation
Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund
George Clooney
John Prendergast
The Abundance Foundation
Marie Field
Leslie Danoff & Lawrence Robbins
J. Boylston and the Boylston Family Foundation
Richard Baks
The Good Works Institute
Olav Grewe
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Jerry & Dena Wald
In honor of Stephane Yulita / Monique Knowlton
Yolie Moreno
The Apatow Family Foundation
Peter & Terra McKinnish-Harliee
The Ginder Family Foundation
The Lois Pope Life Foundation
The Schwartz Family Foundation
The Segal Family Foundation
In honor of Susan Rauch / The Charles Engelhard Foundation
Bobby Newmeyer Memorial Fund / Deborah Newmeyer
Sarah and Matthew Pincus Foundation / The Wooden Nickel Foundation
Jon-Mark & Colleen Chappellet
Clinton Global Initiative
Nicholas Kristof

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