Education in South Sudan Makes a Difference

Published July 1, 2018

RSS Board Members Respond to the Call for Education in South Sudan.

In 2007, Zoe Mullery, emeritus board member, established a relationship with two young men in Jalle, David and Jacob, orphaned by the war. It began when they approached her with a handwritten letter. It continued when Zoe’s mother, Lee Mullery, persuaded her church’s social justice committee to provide ongoing financial and emotional support to get them through high school. Once they graduated high school, other board members joined Lee and her church to pay for college tuition. This is above and beyond our work as an organization, yet this story inspires the cause of Rebuild South Sudan.

Eleven years later in July 2018, David is now a practicing petroleum engineer and Jacob is two years away from a pharmacology degree. These men are the future of South Sudan. The more South Sudanese who gain expertise in areas like earth science medicine, the more that people in South Sudan can take control of their own destiny.

In this special post, we want to share the chronicles of David and Jacob’s stories.

Ten years after he asked for help with education, David graduated with a degree in Petroleum Engineering.

Ten years after he asked for help with education, David graduated with a degree in Petroleum Engineering.

The Original Letter

David and Jacob: “We Want an Education For our Future Life”
by Zoe Mullery, 2007

The following is from a letter handed to me and my traveling companions by recently returned refugees David Bior Kur and Jacob Thon Bior when I was visiting the remote region of Padak, Southern Sudan—a place without electricity, clean water, roads, phones, or services of any kind:

Dear Madams, 

Warmly greeting to you by the Name of trinity father “Amen.”

Dear Christian. We are here by requesting you to support us by the term educate. But I am always happy from you by supporting orphan in Sudan due to the war in Sudan our father and mother are killed. 

Nobody pay school fees.

Dear Christian, I am request you to support me and take me to where I will become educate. Dear Christian I am so glad to look foreward you. 

By Jacob Thon Bior and David Bior Kur, your loving Christian, your loving orphan of God, to my loving sisters be coming from America.

These boys are 17 years old and are focused on one thing and one thing only: getting an education. When we asked them what motivated them to become educated, they told us that they understood that the future of their country depended upon the education of its citizens. (It was amazing to me that we could even be having a conversation in English, given the fact that they have had only intermittent access to education during their years in refugee camps.) Then David said, “I want to understand what killed my father.”

Jacob and David, 2007

Jacob, left, and David, right, stand in front of a Jalle tukul in 2007.

Jacob Shares his Dreams, Bor Town, September 2015

In 2015, Katie Rivers and Gail Efting met with Jacob and heard his story. He shared his history of education and what he hoped to accomplish by furthering his education. At the time, he was living in an internally displaced persons camp near Jalle. The current civil war had been raging for two years, and the greater Bor area was hit hard in the early years.

Jacob spoke of the health needs in the camp. He had a keen eye for how  health and hygiene needed to be improved. We gave him a water filter to take back to the camp. It wasn’t much, but it was the tool we had.

While we talked under a neem tree and quickly realized we wanted to capture his story (and support him in getting into medicine!). The benefits of education in South Sudan were palpable to us as he spoke. We did our best with the small digital camera we had at the time. We invite you to get a glimpse of the meeting (and the singing bird in the neem tree!) with your own eyes and ears.

David says “Thank you,” Juba, December 2016

Katie Rivers met with David in Juba in December 2016 for the first time. David was in the process of finishing his petroleum engineering internship in Juba and finalizing the paperwork of his degree. Even though we were meeting for the first time, we met as trusted companions due to our shared history in working for healing in South Sudan.

On her last morning in Juba, Katie sat with David as he wrote another letter by hand. This time he wasn’t requesting an education, he was saying thank you. There is no postal system in South Sudan, so Katie took the letter with her own hands on an airplane back to San Francisco. She delivered the letter to Madam Lee who supported David all the way through college.

David writes a thank you letter.

David writes a heartfelt thank you letter for Katie to carry back to the United States.

David is the Grassroots Movement, Juba- Fall 2017

In 2017, David was in Juba looking for a petroleum engineering job. While he was looking, he used his time to help move the projects of Rebuild South Sudan forward. He started on staff in Juba as a volunteer, and then, once we were able, receiving the small salary that we were able to pay. David was foundational in getting the Sustainable Hope and Development* Office up running. That fall, he contributed to the work that benefitted his home area, the greater Bor Area. We could not have hosted and run the 2017 Teacher Training and the 2017 First Aid Training for Teachers with out him.

Katie Rivers reflects: “I am often in awe at this story that I get to be a part of. I get goose bumps when I think about how a single hand written plea opened a path for David. He is now a man who can really truly make a difference. Everyday that I see David in Juba, he is giving back to his community, whether helping with funeral arrangements for an unexpected death or doing geologic research on the soil in Jalle or helping with teacher training workshops. There are many moments where working in South Sudan seems impossible, but then I reflect on what does happen despite the odds. People like David make me decide not to give up.”

David and Katie in the SHD Office

David, left, and Katie, right, at the Sustainable Hope and Development Office.

Education in South Sudan Matters to Us

In the same year that David and Jacob wrote their original letter, our organization responded to the call of Jalle. Jalle is Michael Kuany’s home community and they asked for a school building. They asked for a safe learning environment where all the children in Jalle, with priority given to girls and orphans, can start their education journey. There are so many more young girls and boys like David and Jacob in Jalle, and they need us to partner with them as they pursue in education in South Sudan.

To donate or join us, read more here.

*This is the name Rebuild South Sudan operates under in South Sudan. (Organizations are not permitted to use the name of the country in their names.)


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