Organization Leadership


Michael Kuany has dedicated his life to the service of the South Sudanese people and to the South Sudanese refugee community in the United States and Australia. Himself a child refugee at age 6 during the Second Sudanese Civil War, Michael was driven from his home and family along with thousands of other Dinka children, making a dangerous, thousand-mile trek to a relief camp in Ethiopia. During Michael’s 14-year sojourn from one refugee camp to another he educated himself and in 2001 was one of 3,800 Lost Boys of Sudan who attained their citizenship in the United States.

Michael earned his BA in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2006 and his MA in Conflict Transformation in 2009 from Eastern Mennonite University. He has also tutored Sudanese refugees and helped them find meaningful employment and has served as an intern with the United Nations Development Program in Juba, South Sudan. Michael founded Rebuild South Sudan, then Rebuild Sudan, in 2005 to offer the children and families of South Sudan an opportunity to educate themselves and rebuild their home – a chance to dream and have a future. Presently, his home is with his wife and two daughters in Australia where he serves as Rebuild South Sudan’s CEO.

Michael often says that, during his difficult childhood, education was his mother and father. The circumstances of his life could have hardened his heart. The loss of family, nation, friends and place is more than most people could endure. But Michael has made a gift of his life to the people of South Sudan.


KATIE RIVERS, Board President and Executive Director

Katie lives in San Francisco with Church of the Sojourners and has been working with Rebuild South Sudan since 2011. Her own experiences of loss, grief, and moving forward drive her to support a nation in need of deep healing and restoration. Michael Kuany’s own story has taught her about struggle, adversity, and hope. Her professional background in office administration, sales, and marketing combined with a passion for communications and community development have equipped her with the necessary tools to further pursue the causes of peace and education in South Sudan.

MICHAEL MALAAK MAYEN, Board Member, Interim Board Treasurer

Born and raised in a poverty-stricken village in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and lived in displaced camps in Sudan and refugee camps in Kenya, Michael Malaak experienced firsthand the brutality of poverty. After settling down in Australia in late 2006, he made it a goal to return to South Sudan as soon as he will be done with his studies to contribute in the development and poverty. Michael Malaak took as his responsibility to be a force for good and promote development in South Sudan.  Michael holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics and Finance) from the University of Southern Queensland  and Master of economics from Macquarie University.

Paul Profile Pic

PAUL ESSWEIN, Board Member

Rev. Dr. Paul was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and has degrees from Penn State University (B.S.), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (M. Div.), and Fuller Theological Seminary (D. Min.). He came to know the Lord at the age of 13 and sensed a call to ministry upon graduation from college in 1982. He was ordained in 1988.
Pastor Paul has served in pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania and Arizona as well as a missionary to Bolivia South America. He has been the English pastor since January of 2003 and has a deep passion to see people mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Pastor Paul is married to Susan (who is an integral part of the Children Ministry at CBC) and has four children.
Gail Profile Picture

GAIL K. EFTING, Board Member

Gail started her career in the financial industry over 40 years ago, creating Compliance Management Information Services, Inc. (CMI) in 1981.  Over the last 18 years, through her consultancy practice, she has encouraged adults, and young adults, toward personal transformation and collaborative leadership, particularly as it serves those who have little or no voice.  Gail stimulates supportive learning communities around the world, in which those who have the least opportunity are fully accepted and valued, regardless of differences, whether mental, physical, or cultural.  Gail is committed to community building in adversarial environments through engagement, conflict resolution and indigenous practices, effective communication strategies, and cross cultural dialogues.

Gail also serves on the board for Alternative Dispute Resolution of Northern California (ADRNC). She has her MA in Leadership and is working on her EdD in Educational Leadership.

South Sudan Leadership Counsel


Bishop Philip Akuok Chol serves as a faith leader with the Reformed Episcopal Church of South Sudan since 2004. Bishop Philip was born in Jalle Payam and is now primarily based in Bor town where he leads his current congregation. Bishop Philip was in Kakauma with the Lost Boys and Girls, including with Michael Kuany. Throughout his life, he has planted hope in the hearts of people who have suffered through continued struggle for independence and peace. He believes that planting faith and hope in people is the first steps toward bettering a country in crisis, but education is still needed. He hopes for a better education system in his country so a new generation of educated people could see life. That is why he works with Rebuild South Sudan as a civil society leader and uses his knowledge and experience to make a difference in the lives of young children.


DANIEL DENG, Project Support

More information to come.

Board of Advisors

JOHN BUL DAU, South Sudan and Lost Boys Advisor
President of John Dau Foundation

John Bul Dau received his Associates Degree from Onondaga Community College in 2004 and his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Affairs at Syracuse University in May 2011. He was featured in the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us and co-authored his autobiography, God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir, along with Michael Sweeney. Most recently, he co-authored with his wife, Martha, a young adults book called Lost Boy, Lost Girl. He has founded three non-profit organizations and is a professional speaker. Between 2001 and 2006 John held multiple jobs including working as a server at McDonald’s, a factor inspector and a security officer at St. Joseph Hospital Health Center. He has received numerous awards including the 2007 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award. John speaks five languages and currently resides with his wife, Martha, and their two daughters and son in Syracuse, New York.

JILL KURTZ, Design Advisor

Jill is an green building consultant by trade, photographer by passion, and a traveler by heart. After working a year in India as a non-profit architect, she realized true sustainability is not a trendy gimmick but a strategy survival in the developing world. She has started her own sustainable buildings consulting firm in Berkeley, CA and is committed to linking projects and people in the west with the needs of the developing world. She has designed schools, hospitals, community shelters and orphan homes in India and Sudan as well provided green building consulting services for Cisco and Dropbox in the Silicon Valley.

Jill served on the board for six years (2010-2016) and now consults on an as needed basis with Rebuild South Sudan.

ZOE MULLERY, Organization Advisor

Zoe’s involvement with Sudan began when she accompanied Rebuild Sudan founder Michael Kuany there in 2007 and experienced firsthand both the cultural and spiritual treasure of Southern Sudan as well as the devastation wrought by the long war. Zoe has taught creative writing for twenty-three years, mostly in the context of prisons or residential drug rehab programs. In both settings she has witnessed the power of the written word to help develop minds and hearts—something she would love the children of Southern Sudan to have the opportunity to experience. Zoe currently teaches at San Quentin State Prison and lives in an intentional Christian community in San Francisco with her 14-year-old daughter.

SARAH GERBER, Communications Advisor
Owner of TwentyTwenty Studios

Sarah has been interested in story-telling since she wrote her first story in elementary school at age 9. With a degree in English and Fine Art, creative, visual story-telling has become her passion. With her own photography and filmmaking business, she is continually challenged to see, capture, and tell the stories around her. Sarah lives in Berkeley CA, where she grew up, with her husband, David, who has also traveled to South Sudan with Rebuild Sudan. When Sarah first met Michael in 2008, his story completely captivated her. And the story Michael was and is living never ceases to amaze her. In May of 2011 she traveled to South Sudan with a team to capture, on film, the story of Michael and Rebuild Sudan. Prior to that, in January, Sarah came on as Director of Communications at Rebuild South Sudan, to develop and form the telling of Rebuild Sudan’s story. She continues to create and produce short films about Rebuild South Sudan. Watch the films here!


Works at Apple & teaches at UC Berkeley

Jeremy Huddleston is currently a senior software engineer at Apple and a lecturer at UC Berkeley (“Cal”) where he teaches a computer animation course (which he created as a master’s project) every other academic year.  Jeremy attended Cal for both his B.A. and M.S. in Computer Science.  During his master’s program, he was named an ADEPT Fellow with the National Science Foundation and was awarded the prestigious Siebel Scholarship for his academic achievements and leadership at Cal.  Prior to obtaining his master’s degree, he worked on visual effects in Matrix Revolutions. Jeremy was also a young entrepreneur as he started his own company, Outersquare Computing, after graduation from high school.  Jeremy joined Rebuild Sudan in 2011 with the hope of contributing his technical skills and providing assistance with fundraising.

Volunteers & Interns


SUSAN ESSWEIN, Director of Education

Susan’s passion for education was ignited when she and her husband opened a private school in their home over 25 years ago. Since then, she’s had the privilege of teaching agriculture at a Bible Institute in Bolivia, South America, initiating after school programs in Bolivia, Arizona, and California, founding and teaching at home school co-ops in Arizona and California, leading youth service teams to Belize, Central America, and tutoring high school and college students n the Bay area in ESL and other subjects. Susan felt honored to help develop and share the student-centered curriculum during the 2015 Teacher Training in Bor, and looks forward to continue partnering with the resourceful and resilient South Sudanese educators.

NIKKI MORRISON-FOUNTAIN, Communications Intern

Nikki Morrison-Fountain is an undergraduate Communication Studies major with a Health Education minor at San Francisco State University. She is a Bay Area native who enjoys exploring the different spaces of community and culture for fun. Nikki had always had a profound interest in the way people communicate and organize as a community. Her love for people, education, and health fuels her aspirations to become a higher education professor. She is excited to be working with Rebuild South Sudan as a resource and contributor to helping the South Sudanese communities.

MICHAELA WONG, Communications Website & Design Volunteer

Michaela Wong is a Communication Studies major at San Francisco State University. She was born in Wuhu, China as part of the one-child policy introduced in 1979. At five months old Michaela was adopted and moved to Los Angeles, California where she grew up to be intrigued with how she could help others. Michaela had the opportunity to serve as a Youth Ambassador in Nicaragua. It was here that she learned that in order to help others, we need not to impose views, but instead listen, be a partner and a resource in order to meet the needs of a community. She is now delighted to learn and be a resource for the South Sudanese people by working with Rebuild South Sudan.

WINDY TRAN, Research Volunteer

Windy Tran is a Humanities major at San Francisco State University. She is originally from Garden Grove, California but now a new resident of San Francisco. Windy has always has a passion for helping others in fact, various programs she has volunteered for taught her the value that education has, and the impact that it has on others. Rebuild South Sudan gives her the opportunity as a researcher to bring the South Sudanese community scholarships to further their education.


YASSEL JIMENEZ, Communications Volunteer

I’m Yassel and I’m a communications major at SFSU. I’m originally from Tijuana, Mexico but been schooled in the United States most of my life. It’s something very common for families in Tijuana to commute every morning to the United States for work and school my family was one of them. Ever since I was small I felt like it was my duty to help those who needed it, but it wasn’t until I started college that I realize that what I really wanted was to empower and help disadvantage women. That’s when I decided that my goal in life was to start an organization that offers support and opportunities to those women and children who have been victims of sex trafficking or force into prostitution in Tijuana. But as for right now my fight starts here by being an advocate for South Sudanese people.

CHARLIE WEIE, Communications Volunteer

Charlie is a student at San Francisco State University and an advocate for travel as a vehicle for educational change. She brings her storytelling, culture and geography passions to the table at Rebuild South Sudan. Additionally, she will be using her skills in digital media, communications, content creation, and journalism to help us our story and the story of South Sudan.


CAROLINE SCHULBERG, Communications Volunteer

Caroline Schulberg is a junior at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco. Her vigor for social change, determination to spread peace, and desire for partnering with South Sudanese working for change motivates her to work with Rebuild South Sudan. As a sophomore, Caroline studied the crisis in South Sudan as her final project. As a result, she wants to draw the attention of her generation to the South Sudanese story through social media and blogging. In addition to supporting media communications for RSS and being a student, Caroline passionately writes her own lifestyle blog.

KAITLIN CLARK, Communications Volunteer

Kaitlin Clark is a Communication Studies Major at San Francisco State University. She grew up in Orange County, California but recently moved to the Bay Area in Fall 2016 when she transferred from Santa Monica College to SFSU. She has a strong passion for human rights, animal rights, and environmental activism. This is the second human rights organization Kaitlin has interned for, and she is excited to utilize her passion for social justice along with her communication and writing skills as a member of the Rebuild South Sudan team.


JENNY PROSA, Finance Volunteer

Jenny Prosa is a detailed record keeper and professional administrator. Her background is in social work, which has not only given her a vision for social justice in the world, but also makes her an effective and compassionate communicator within the organizations she supports. She is passionate about photography, and is responsible for the art on our 2016 winter holiday cards [link “2016 winter holiday cards” to:]. When she’s not taking pictures and organizing details, she’s probably cooking an immaculate dinner for her friends and family.

Amy Foote Bio (1)

AMY FOOTE, Record Keeping Volunteer

Amy Foote is an opera singer and music teacher in San Francisco, where she received her Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory. Her attention to detail makes her an excellent technical musician and a fantastic record keeper for Rebuild South Sudan. Her predisposition toward social justice drives her to support and contribute to Deborah and Michael Kuany’s vision for education and peace in South Sudan. Amy is a proud member of the San Francisco Succulent and Cactus Society.


RENATA BROWNE, Executive Administrator

Renata Browne is an educator and aspiring social entrepreneur in San Francisco, where she has lived since 2008. She has been volunteering with Rebuild South Sudan since June 2014 and keeps many of the behind the scenes details in order. In 2015 she was an integral part of coordinating the Rebuild South Sudan Teacher Training. Her drive to see a healed world makes her passionate about education, economic sustainability, and peace in South Sudan. She works in the San Francisco Unified School district as a paraprofessional. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Pacific Lutheran University.

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