A photo for International Women’s Day

Here’s our photo in honor of International Women’s Day: After she finished her literacy class at our community center, this woman gathered firewood to sell at the market.

 

Her daughter holds her mom’s schoolbag as they prepare for the walk home. Several women told us they have less time to gather firewood and prepare charcoal to sell at  the market because they are going to class. Nevertheless, they keep coming to learn to read and write.

On this Women’s Day, let us remember our commitment to provide education and opportunity for women and men in South Sudan, and that education is the key to greater economic opportunity.

Teacher Training Is of Primary Importance

The teachers in Wunlang and Rhumathoi primary schools, although all from the area, have various backgrounds: some are secondary-school graduates, some are still in secondary school, and some are volunteers whose education is just barely ahead of their students. Teacher training is a continuing issue in South Sudan, even as the use of the South Sudan curriculum and syllabus grows. Teachers have to be prepared to teach it.

So our six-day teacher training was a refresher course in primary grammar. Teachers from both Wunlang and Rhumathoi attended, and ias Wunlang is a four-hour walk from Rhumathoi, we made accommodations available in our community center guest house.

Our teacher-training class met in one of our community-center rooms.

 

We were all learning as we went along, and we have realized that one exercise book for the trainer and providing exercise books for the students to copy into, while traditional and workable, wastes a lot of time. However, Kush Air, the three-times-a-week airline to Aweil, has a very strict baggage allowance of one bag weighing 20 kilos. Their definition of a carry-on is very small.(At the airport your trainer had to choose between her bag of training supplies and her bag of clothes, and she yanked a set of clothes out of her bag and stuffed it into her handbag; the other suitcase remained in Juba the whole time.) We will be exploring ways to get workbooks too all trainees in the future.

Because there was no way to transport workbooks for each trainee, teacher training involved a lot of copying from the board.

Because there was no way to transport workbooks for each trainee, teacher training involved a lot of copying from the board.

 

Teacher-training supplies included a nine-pound atlas, one of the few that includes the new country of the republic of South Sudan.

Teacher-training supplies included a nine-pound atlas, one of the few that includes the new country of the Republic of South Sudan.

 

We left the grammar books with the teachers so they could review. All teachers had areas in primary grammar that they wanted to study again.

We left the grammar books with the teachers so they could review. All teachers had areas in primary grammar that they wanted to study again.

Ron meets baboons!

Director Ron left for South Sudan late last week. He reports that he has taken a long, bumpy, crowded ride from Juba to Thiou, where he and a crew from the University of San Diego are inspecting the solar installation in Thiou Freedom School.

On the way, they saw a troop of baboons! This sighting, and the potential of our guesthouse in Rhumathoi to host ecotourists, has us jumping with delight.

VHSS volunteer Alix Charles attends the GHTC

Village Help for South Sudan is once again taking part in conversations on using cutting edge technology for the benefit of developing areas. The organization’s newest volunteer member, Alix Charles, based on the West coast, attended IEEE’s Global Humanitarian Technology Conference earlier this week in Seattle, WA. The conference brought together hundreds of individuals from over two dozen countries, and featured speakers from organizations such as the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) and UNESCO. Panel discussions topics included Water and Agriculture, Connectivity and Communication, Humanitarian Challenges & Opportunities, and Societal Impacts.

Through taking part in such panel discussions, Alix informed engineers, scientists, funders, industry and government representatives, and other attendees of Village Help for South Sudan’s work. Alix reported back with resources and contacts that could help us in current and future projects. “It was a great experience and a terrific opportunity to raise awareness of our projects and mission among the humanitarian community,” says Alix. “I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. It was inspiring to be among such accomplished individuals, and rewarding to see such enthusiasm and interest in our work.”

Here’s a link to the conference blog with posts about the various topics and presentations. Thank you, Alix, for joining Village Help for South Sudan and attending this conference for us!

Market-Based Sustainable Development

Village Help for South Sudan continues to explore development project sustainability through market-based solutions. Our Wunlang Multipurpose Community Center will soon offer vocational training and opportunities in small-scale agriculture and sewing, for example, that we hope will lead to villagers establishing small businesses to earn profits for the Center and for their families. Our pursuit of such development was also a key factor is our engagement with and co-founding of SSAFTA to help develop the private sector in the new nation of South Sudan.

We are now working on a sustainable solar energy solution for remote villages in South Sudan. We have the capacity to do this because of a new partnership and the talents of Mou Riiny. Mou is an electrical engineer educated in the U. S. but now living in South Sudan where he is managing our Thiou Freedom School project. His first solar installation will be a 6KW setup that will provide the energy for Thiou School.

Mou plans to start a for-profit energy business later this year to install solar for other schools, clinics and marketplace shops. The business will offer both “micro-grid” installations for marketplaces as well as a model for rural villages developed by IEEE’s Community Solutions Initiative and initially implemented in Haiti. CSI is making their solution available to several countries in Africa. VHSS will be their NGO partner for South Sudan. CSI’s goal is to deliver electricity to many energy-impoverished parts of the world. In South Sudan, as in other countries, we envision a 5 to 7 year plan that will eventually supply electricity to a million rural residents.

The CSI solution is a franchise operation that leases solar generators called Sunblazers to village operators. The operators then sell the electricity to customers in their territories who will use the electricity for such needs as lighting in their homes and recharging their cell phones.

Mou recently trained a group of candidate operators to prepare them to conduct market surveys to determine how much customers currently pay for lighting, cell phone recharging, and other energy consumption. The survey also asks how much customers would be willing to pay for energy service in their homes. The survey will provide necessary input for Mou’s business planning. We hope to start the initial deployment of the solution in early 2013. The new social enterprise will provide jobs as well as electricity to some of the poorest people on earth living in energy-impoverished areas of South Sudan.

Under Mou’s leadership, this will be another project to use the talented local villagers to help solve their own problems and participate in the development of their communities. Bravo to Mou and his team!

Items for sale – to benefit Thiou School!

Some local merchants have supported us by donating the following items for our fundraising purposes:
  • Heavyweight Red Sox coat with leather sleeves (men’s size XXL)
  • Signed 8×10 photo of Andrew Miller
  • 2 lift tickets for Wachusett Mt. (value $52.00 each)
  • 4-some 9 holes with cart at Reedy Meadow (value $105.00)
  • Dance lessons for 2 at Arthur Murray studio in Burlington
  • 4 passes to Frankin Park Zoo (value $64.00)
  • 2 tickets to New England Aquarium (value $22.95 each)
  • We will soon post these items on our non-profit e-Bay page. If you are interested in purchasing an item directly from us now, however, please submit your offer amount via the Contact form. The best offer (above the value amount) before we list on e-Bay will get the item, and we will work with you to provide the item in person or mail it to you. All proceeds from the sale of these items will go to our Thiou School project.