Underneath It All

We anticipated Menstrual Hygiene Day by a few weeks with out blog post about our delivery of pads to the girls at Wunlang School. Today we want to highlight what else girls need to make themselves comfortable enough to attend school — underwear. Executive Director Franco Majok took $100 of VHSS’s funds and bought underwear for the girls in the school.

Schoolgirls waiting for their underwear.

Girls receiving their underwear.

Can you imagine wearing your school uniform skirt with no underwear? How can you stick a pad to your underwear if there’s no underwear to stick it to? Little things like this can impede a girl’s education, and we’re grateful to Franco for making sure everyone has a chance for education in this part of South Sudan.

Remember the Ladies

In addition to learning about the enrollment and hunger issues at Wunlang School, Franco remembered our older girl students, some of whom are going to school for the first time: “I bought always from US with my money for 100 girls, so girls will be OK in next 3 months. You can not imagine that some girls has no underwear. Yel {Maduok Ngor, our field manager) will cover that with school materials, at least one underwear for each girl and until when I get backYour blogger asked Franco if girls missed school when they didn’t have Always sanitary pads (a favorite brand, and often referred to euphemistically by its brand name), and whether they could get any locally. As you can see from the bag, these pads came from CVS. He replied: “Girls miss school when they don’t have pads. Many girls in Wunlang School do not have underwears too. The closest markets to buy pads are in Aweil market or Wanyjok market. This year we have 84 girls who need pads, but next year the numbers will increase. . . . It is time now for someone to have a store to sell pads in Wunlang.” Relying on visitors to bring them is not a sustainable plan. In our model of encouraging local enterprise, we hope to encourage an entrepreneur to open such a business It’s realistic to expect that a local retailer can get a supply — they’re made in China, and the pipeline of goods from China to Africa is wide open. Here’s hoping we can encourage, through sometime simple like pads, even more education and opportunity in a remote part of South Sudan.

Hungry for knowledge and for food

Franco Majok, our executive director, has sent a comprehensive report about Wunlang School, our very first project in 2008. There’s lots of talk about. The first one is hunger. “The hunger is alarming,” Franco reports. “People are eating leaves.” And yet, there are 750 students at Wunlang School, as its reputation grows and parents enroll their children in what is now the best school in Aweil East. Students are doing very well in the eight-grade leaving exams. “Our girls were leading,” Franco writes. The school also has two female teachers, one herself a graduate of Wunlang School.

Some of the 750 students enrolled in Wunlang School.

Franco brought money so students will get one meal a week at school, and teachers (mostly unpaid volunteers, mostly graduates of Wunlang itself) will get five meals a week. Our little non-profit doesn’t have the resources to provide emergency food relief. The United Nations World Food Programme does, and it has rapid response teams deploying throughout South Sudan. But no team has come to Wunlang. Village Help for South Sudan’s board of directors is sending a letter to WPF in South Sudan, expressing our dismay that no help has arrived yet. We are hoping food relief arrives soon, and that with full bellies our students can satisfy their hunger for learning.

We will keep advocating for the Wunlang students.


St. Paul Comes Through Again, Uniformly

new uniforms   Our friends at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arlington, MA, one of our first supporters, have come through again. As they report in their weekly update (scroll down and look at the right-hand column), they’re raising funds again to provide the students at Wunlang School with school uniforms. You might think this is a luxury with all the other suffering going on in South Sudan. But education is the key to the long-term solutions to this suffering. School uniforms are required; a family who can’t afford uniforms can’t and won’t send their kids to school. We source our uniforms locally, providing jobs and income for local tailors. Our last delivery was by motorbike, as the dirt roads were too muddy for larger vehicles. Transport_hired Our field director Yel Maduok Ngor (in the center, wearing tan) supervised the arrangement by sizes. Wunlang school uniforms distributed We’re so grateful to the people of St. Paul for providing this entrance into education and opportunity. The church is raising funds for this campaign until October 4.  

Wunlang School going strong

Wunlang volleyballThis picture tells a story – in a sense the best story imaginable – for Wunlang School. The village of Wunlang is so remote and rural that few vehicles make it there, and the footpath-become-road is impassable during the seasonal rains. People live in traditional shelters called “tukuls” made from local materials. Until our grant support enabled the village to construct its primary school for boys and girls, no brick and mortar structure was there. Now Wunlang School students play volleyball in the school yard, and the school building happily co-exists with the surrounding village homes.

Teacher with school booksClassrooms have also changed dramatically from the makeshift spaces in the shadow of trees the village called their school before they built Wunlang School several years ago. Village Help for South Sudan has provided additional grants to the school since it opened in 2008 – for routine maintenance, school supplies, and uniforms. Wunlang elders and citizens have become strong advocates for their needs through other channels as well. One example: this teacher displays the books donated to the school by UKAID in their massive program for South Sudan’s schools earlier this year.

Students outside Wunlang SchoolWunlang School is well-constructed. The local builder, the village laborers, and the young man who became our Field Manager – they all did an outstanding job building this school. It needs a fresh coat of paint, however, and more uniforms are needed. Your donations will help us continue supporting Wunlang village and their school.

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.

Wunlang School Latrines Repaired

Latrines were installed at Wunlang School when it was first constructed. We learned recently, however, that the latrines were not being used by some students – namely the young girls – whose modesty kept them away. The latrines needed a privacy wall to enclose the entrance area.

When we heard of this barrier to use, we issued a grant to construct the privacy wall. Yel, our field manager in the village took it from there. The Wunlang School pit latrines have been repaired successfully, and he sent us these pictures.

The young man doing the work is Maluil Makuei Piol. Because of his experience helping with the construction process for the School and other work in the community, Maluil is now an independent mason and carpenter. He got his start working on our village construction projects. Yel says, “The school has a great positive impact to the community and Maluil is the first young boy mason in the history of Wunlang.”

Stories of success like this make us very proud, and we hope you will continue to support Village Help for South Sudan to enable villagers like Maluil undertake development projects and advance their own skills and future livelihoods.

Supplies and food for Wunlang School

With cutbacks in South Sudan due to revenue shortfalls and border conflicts, the situation is very dire in remote villages, including Wunlang. We recently issued a grant to enable the Wunlang School to purchase some basic supplies they needed as well as some emergency food aid. Our Wunlang Field Manager, Yel Maduok, sent these pictures showing the distribution of exercise books and a letter from the Head Teacher acknowledging the gift.