Dear Family and Friends,
Warm greetings from South Sudan where it is literally very warm and I longingly dream of a snowy December in Central New York. At the beginning of this month, I had the privilege of traveling to Ariang village to visit the school and meet with the community. It had been six years since I last visited and I was eager to reconnect with teachers, students, and community members as I begin my new role as Executive Director. I went with a very simple purpose: to listen. I wanted to hear from as many teachers, students, and their parents and understand the successes, challenges, and dreams for Ariang Primary School.
During my last visit in 2011, South Sudan was a newly independent country. Optimism and hope were evident in the community and throughout the new Republic. Since 2011, South Sudan has been devastated by its own civil war that has had a significant impact on the country’s security and development. While Ariang School is located in a region of the country that is removed from the frequent violence, they still feel the economic impact resulting from the war.
Throughout my conversations there were two overarching themes that appeared:
Ariang community as a whole, which includes teachers, students, and parents, has a deep understanding that education has the transformative power to change the course of an individual, family and community.
Students wake up before dawn to get ready and walk two hours to school, because they know that an education will provide a better future for them.
Teachers continue to teach while earning a meager salary because they believe that education is the key to lift up their community. Even with limited teaching tools, they desire to guide young boys and girls in their learning so that they can be the future change in their Ariang.
Families are recognizing the importance of school and more are sending their young girls to Ariang School. When the school began, less than 25% were girls. This year, there were almost even number of boys and girls.
Ariang community faces numerous daily struggles of survival that extends to Ariang Primary School. Teachers, students, and community members are crying for more support and help to build up their school and community.
Students are in need of new uniforms, shoes, and basic school supplies; items that are difficult for most families to buy.
Teachers come with varied levels of education and training. They are desperate for more training to improve their teaching practices.
Teachers also come long distances to school, making it difficult for them to arrive early or on-time for lessons.
The school is showing signs of deterioration due to the lack of a schoolyardfence to secure building and students. In addition, the chalkboards are in need of repair.
I left Ariang with an overwhelming awareness that there is a lot of work ahead, to achieve our mission of providing educational opportunities to all South Sudanese—One village at a time.
This trip will help guide HOPE for Ariang Foundation’s work in 2018. We are working on a few short-term immediate projects as well as long-term investment projects. Three specific projects that I am most excited for are:
- New Uniforms and Shoes for our students
A uniform is a powerful tool for establishing a sense of community and belonging. When a student has a uniform, he or she walks to school with pride and dignity, showing others in the community that they are part of Ariang Primary School. It creates equality among students. Students feel more equipped and ready to learn each day. Currently, most students at Ariang School do not have uniforms or proper shoes to wear. Students, teachers, and the community asked over and over for more uniforms for students.
Our goal is to raise $15,000 to be able to give out 700 uniforms and shoes in 2018.
- Bikes for Teachers
Teachers face similar challenges to students and have to walk long distances to the school. With added family responsibilities, it becomes even more challenging for them to arrive at school early or on time for lessons. With a bicycle, they will be able to arrive at school early enough prepare their lessons for the day.
Our goal is to raise $5,400 for 18 bicycles.
- Teacher Training
The long-term investment in Ariang School is in equipping our teachers with the best teaching tools possible. There isn’t a quick fix for teacher training. It will take time, resources, and consistent follow-up to help develop our teachers. However, the impact of it is significant. When the quality of teaching improves at the school, it impacts student learning and performance.
We are partnering with Dignitas, a Kenya based organization that has been doing teacher training in community schools throughout Nairobi’s informal settlements (slums) for the past seven years. They have refined their program to successfully transform schools through investment in teachers. We are excited for the ways that they will help develop and grow our Ariang Primary School teachers in 2018.
Our goal is to raise $30,000 for teacher training.
I invite you to be part of these three exciting programs and others in 2018. You can donate online or mail a donation here. Your support allows us to keep doing this important work of transforming a community through one little school. Thank you for enabling us to do so!
Wishing you and yours a joyous Holiday and a peaceful New Year!