Looking Back, Looking Forward

As we look back on our notes at our annual meeting, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our first project was Wunlang School, and now Wunlang is a destination for families seeking education and safety for their families. We have 890 students enrolled, and more than half are girls. Our high enrollment and retention rate is due in part to our providing menstrual supplies and underwear, and to the cash stipends paid by the British NGO Girls’ Education South Sudan. Because Wunlang School has a campus and is no longer a school under the trees, it qualifies for support from other institutions. Graduates of Wunlang School are attending secondary school in Aweil and are working, even with only a primary education, for International Rescue Committee. One of our first teachers is now the county administrator of education. Wunlang Clinic got very busy in the malaria season, which was very deadly this past year. One reason for this is the very high cost of anti-malaria medicine. One of next year’s goals is to research a reliable source of anti-malaria medicine, make a bulk purchase, and sell the medicine at a reasonable price. Promoting entrepreneurship has always been our model.

Waiting for malaria treatment at Wunlang Primary Care Center

Our Rhumathoi community center is doing well under new leadership. The previous leader is now working primarily for SunGate Solar. The Rhumathoi solar installation is functioning well and is now generating income for the center. The shop in Wanyjok is also contributing income from marketplace sales. SunGate Solar, now spun off as its own enterprise, continues to thrive with major support from one investor. The business now targets new suppliers and pay-as-you-go products as well as micro-grids in marketplaces. The whole story of SunGate is remarkable. Mou Riiny, who came to America as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, lived with foster families, graduated from the University of San Diego with an electrical engineering degree, and through Village Help for South Sudan, supplied solar-powered battery packs to his home village in South Sudan as part of his senior project. The enterprise, while not yet profitable, is bringing in sufficient revenues from sales to pay a staff of 30 and its operating expenses. We have challenges to meet. We are still short of funds to bring clean water to Malual-Chum. (You can donate directly to that project here.) Our school in Thiou still needs a permanent roof repair. We want to continue providing supplies for girls and school lunches at Wunlang. You can make a difference and help us continue to supply education and opportunity to remote villages in South Sudan.

Looking Forward to 2017

If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one. — Mother Teresa

Many questions remain about South Sudan’s political and economic future. On the one hand, there has been no recent upsurge of violence. It was reported that New Year’s Eve was celebrated in Juba without any gunfire. On the other hand, hyperinflation and food insecurity remain in South Sudan. Education and clean water for all are elusive goals.

A small non-profit like ours looks at enormous problems that governments and international NGOs cannot overcome — and turns back to doing what it can do.

We aren’t able to provide massive distributions of emergency food. But we were able to provide aid to farmers to buy seed in 2016. And we were able to provide price supports at the market so the resulting crops could be sold at lower prices, while still give farmers a profit.   peanut harvest 04 2014We also, by building Wunlang School back in 2008, have provided a place where food supplies can be distributed. About 160 girls attending Wunlang School received sorghum, lentils, and cooking oil through a UNICEF program.   wunlang-school-girls-receiving-sorghum-may-2016 Girls’ literacy is still far behind boys’ (40 percent to 60 percent), but we have seen girls’ enrollment increase steadily in Wunlang since the school was built. Word of Wunlang School has spread. As other parts of South Sudan become too difficult to live in, families have come to Wunlang to give their children a chance at education. Even when children are hungry, reports field manager Yel Maduok Ngor, they still show up for school. wunlang-school-classroom-june-2016 Back in America, Thiou Village Project has raised enough money to enable us to provide school supplies and money for repairs. We also had a remarkably successful fundraising day for our Malual-Chum project. It is our goal to get a well drilled in this village this year. Then women and girls like this won’t have to haul up dirty water with a tin can.   Wells in Malual-Chum You can help with all these goals by making a donation. Then you will have done your part to bringing education and opportunity, despite all the obstacles, to remote parts of South Sudan.        

Uniform results

At our last board meeting, the directors of Village Help for South Sudan decided that as a nonprofit we would not focus on building more buildings, but rather on programs and support for the institutions we’ve established. This means that we can be effective without having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to begin a project. We also observed that our first project, Wunlang School, has become a hub of education and security for the residents of Aweil County East, and it made sense to support the work going on there.

Our friends at St. Paul Lutheran Church have been faithful in raising money for school uniforms. This may not seem like a big deal, but in a country where uniforms are required, and a place where a uniform may be a child’s only decent piece of clothing, each uniform is a ticket to an education.

In our last effort, our uniforms were made by a local tailor and delivered by motorbike. This time, we have a small, but significant change. Here Joseph Deng Madhieu is negotiating with the seller of our uniform fabric.

fabric for wunlang school uniforms

And here are the uniforms being made in Rhumathoi, at our community center. In the background are tailors on foot-treadle sewing machines. In the foreground are four local women, trained by the tailors to sew on the buttons.

Rhumathoi women helping with uniforms

It seems like a small thing, four women sewing on buttons. But this was organized by our field staff themselves: no one flew in from overseas to tell them what to do. Our local leadership grows more empowered with every project. Now these women have a marketable skill they didn’t have before. And more children will be going to school. It’s these small, significant opportunities we will keep focused on at Village Help for South Sudan.

Some peanuts for World Food Day

It’s World Food Day todayand this year’s emphasis is on family farming. We have a community farm at our Rhumathoi Community Center, and we are pretty pleased with our first peanut harvest. .
Our peanut fields at harvest time.

Our peanut fields at harvest time.

Deng Madheiu, the Rhumathoi community-center manager, harvesting peanuts.

Deng Madheiu, the Rhumathoi community-center manager, harvesting peanuts.

Looks pretty good!

Looks pretty good!

peanut harvest 02 closeup 2014 VHSS executive director Franco Majok took these photos. He writes: “The big problem we have this year in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal and maybe for all South Sudan is starvation, which is alarming everyone.” The food we grow, and the support we can provide for those growing food, will provide some relief to this remote part of South Sudan.

A home electricity business is born

Solar PanelsEarlier this year we completed two solar energy installations. One is a large 6kW system at Thiou School, and the other is a 1.5kW installation at our multipurpose community center.

Interior componentsThese energy solutions provide power for the facilities where they are installed, but they are also the base charging stations for our rural home electricity business. Proceeds from the business will help offset operations costs to maintain and run the facilities.

Portable battery kitThe energy business is a pay-as-you-go model run by local operators we train. Customers in the area lease portable battery kits (PBKs) from the operators. The kits include a rechargeable battery (12V, 18 amp-hour, deep cycle battery) and LED lights for their home. The PBKs also have built-in outlets for charging cell phones and other small electronic devices.

Charging the PBKsThe PBKs for the business arrived this week, and Mou Riiny has been busy with the 2 operators getting the batteries charged up and distributed to the initial customers.

Reading the agreementEach customer agrees to the conditions for leasing their PBK. Here one of the customers, a doctor from a nearby clinic, reads the agreement which specifies the amount he must pay each month to continue using the PBK.

Signing the customer agreementThe customer signs the agreement before getting his PBK. Customers who cannot read or write are assisted by other family members. In rural South Sudan children who are in school will frequently use their literacy skills to assist their parents and other adults in the community who are illiterate.

Customer getting his PBKThe PBK is small and portable, but very effective for the small amounts of electricity needed in rural homes in this area. The kit has internal electronics that prevent the battery from over-discharging, thus enabling a single battery to be recharged many times and to last up to 5 years.

Customer getting her LED lightsEach PBK comes with 3 LED lights for home use. This customer takes her LEDs to light her home and to help run a small home business at night.

Multipurpose center customersEach of our solar installations can support at least 80 PBK customers. For this initial pilot, however, each station has 25 customers.

Thiou School customersOur operators have been busy for the past several weeks learning about the business model, explaining the solution to others in the community, and finding their initial customers. Each operator has a waiting list of future customers beyond our current maximum. After piloting the solution with the first 50 customers, we hope to expand with more PBKs for the two solar installations and to install more solar generating stations to deliver the solution to other parts of rural South Sudan.

Got Android? Try One Today by Google

As a Google non-profit grant recipient, we are happy to participate in their One Today program. If you have an Android phone, please download the One Today app, and then donate to one or more of our projects featured – once a day or as often as you like. You really can “Do a little, change a lot!”

School support

Help us run this school!

Women's Literacy

Help support women’s literacy!

Birth attendants

Help delivering moms and their babies!

Clean water

Help bring clean water to our villages!

No More Living Like a Refugee

This World Refugee Day, we want to thank our executive director Franco Majok, and project managers Bol Thiik Riiny, Mou Riiny, and Manyang Malang, all who came to America as refugees and all who are now making a difference in their homeland. Keep up the good work, guys!

Mou Riiny to present at IEEE’s GHTC

Mou Riiny

Mou Riiny, our Project Manager and Electrical Engineer, will present “South Sudan Rural Electrification Project” at IEEE’s 2013 Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) in San Jose, California, in October. Mou’s presentation will be an informal overview of his solar electricity project and early results from the field pilot test sites. Here is a link to his abstract.

The mission of Village Help for South Sudan is to support South Sudanese rural villagers in a variety of ways, and we devote nearly 100% of our budgets to enable local village groups to do their own development work. We enable villagers and former refugees like Mou to undertake projects and start businesses to employ South Sudanese to deliver goods and services needed by the local communities.

Mou’s start-up enterprise, SunGate Solar, provides poor villagers with electricity they can afford. As SunGate scales over the next few years, many rural South Sudanese will be the direct beneficiaries of the electricity delivered as well as the training and jobs created to grow and sustain the business.

IEEE is an important partner for SunGate Solar and our rural electrification program in South Sudan. Our pilot project tests an innovative model developed by their Community Solutions Initiative and initially deployed in Haiti. Attending the GHTC will be mutually beneficial as Mou learns about other science, engineering and technology solutions for disadvantaged communities and represents the needs and realities of deploying sustainable solutions in South Sudan.

We Celebrate Earth Day with Clean Energy in Rural South Sudan

Solar-ExteriorAtNight5

To anyone here in the U. S. where electricity is common, it is not unusual to see lights emitting from windows at night. In rural South Sudan, however, electricity is almost non-existent, so these lights coming from our multi-purpose community center in the village of Rhumathoi, Wunlang Payam, are the cause of much excitement for all of us at Village Help for South Sudan. We celebrate Earth Day 2013 with clean energy and the benefits this brings to Rhumathoi – and the environment!

Solar Panels

With support from IEEE’s Community Solutions Initiative, the solar electric generating system at the center is now complete. This project not only provides lighting for the facility, but the system will be run as a small business by a community-elected energy entrepreneur who will sell electricity to rural homes at prices the local residents can afford. Proceeds pay the entrepreneur’s income as well as operations costs at the multi-purpose community center. Mou Riiny, our electrical engineer, and his team completed a market survey several months ago to determine the price rural customers can pay for electricity.

Interior ComponentsInterior Components

PBK

Residential electricity is provided in the form of take-home rechargeable battery packs and lighting kits (PBKs). The initial pilot will test a PBK from BBOXX which has similar operations in other countries in Africa. IEEE-CSI has developed an open-source design for another PBK (pictured here), however, and our goal is to set up an assembly plant in South Sudan to produce these units locally.

PBK

Our solar business pilot aims to help Mou Riiny establish his for-profit social enterprise to be called SunGate Solar. SunGate will be owned and operated by Mou, and will provide jobs and opportunity to many of his fellow South Sudanese citizens. Mou’s initial solar project is now operating in the village of Thiou at our primary school for that area.

*Social enterprises are businesses that:

  1. Use the marketplace to solve pressing social problems.
  2. Have a primary purpose to do social good.
  3. Serve the common good, making money while solving social problems.
  4. Are values-led and committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
  5. Use the power of business for positive social change.
  6. Believe the bottom line and social change can be hardwired together.
  7. Develop and sell products or services that address social or environmental issues.
  8. Are values-centered, transparent, and in business for the benefit of all stakeholders.
  9. Are dedicated to making a sustained, positive impact on social and environmental change.
  10. Believe what is good for the world is good for business.

*Source: npEnterprise Forum edited by Rolfe Larson

See more pictures from the solar installation at the Rhumathoi community center here.