Letter to Jalle
To the Persevering People of Jalle:
I have not met you; I only know of few of your names, yet I think of you nearly every day. I long to know you because your story has become part of my story, and we are now connected. I’ve been working with Michael Ayuen Kuany as part of Rebuild South Sudan since 2011, serving first as an advisor and then as a board member. The U.S. board of Rebuild South Sudan met for a retreat in April 2014 and voted me into the position of board president. I do not take this position lightly; it is a position of service, and it is a great honor to be working with you and for you.
Jill Kurtz is still with us on the board as secretary, and Zoe Mullery is still with us as an advisor. Jeremy Sequoia continues to serve on the board as the technology specialist, and we welcome new board members David Erington, Blake Voyles, Luke Haqq, and Deborah Nyap Majer Akon.
I want to acknowledge the deep pain and heartache that you all have suffered time and time again, especially in light of the civil war you have endured this year. I am sorry for the lives lost, the dreams shattered, the violence suffered, the anxiety that you live with as a result of uncertainty. This is unfair, and I grieve with you. I grieve with you, and I hope with you. I work with you because I believe peace is worth struggling for. To be human is to look in the face of destruction and violence and proclaim: We will not participate. We will rebuild. We will work for justice and peace. You have lived with the destruction begotten from cycles of violence and still found hope; you all inspire me. Don’t give up. Keep your sights set on education, hope, peace, healing, compassion, and forgiveness. I hope education gives you tools to build a nation, understand those who are different than you, and create art. May your acts of justice be made with love, with a pencil, with your voice.
I recently looked up at the sky in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. It was clear and blue. I knew deeply in that moment that you and I look at the same sky and that we are connected. While I viewed the sky, I wept for your pain and suffering. I wept for my suffering, which is different than yours but connects me to yours. I wept with gratitude that you were dedicated to rebuilding as you became a nation in 2011 and wept with hope that you will rebuild again after this civil war.
At the April retreat we re-affirmed that the vision of Rebuild South Sudan is to encourage you, empower you, and partner with you in developing education opportunities in your community. We acknowledge that it has taken a great deal longer than we planned to build the school. Thank you for your patience. We also acknowledge that the civil war and current violence makes it hard to work on the school right now. We wish this was different, but please know that we are not giving up on the school!
As signs of encouragement and empowerment, we are starting the Sustainable Supplies initiative. We are working with Michael Ayuen Kuany to deliver to you fishing nets, hooks, and a boat. May you be empowered, may you be able to build up your community and each other with these supplies. We are working to provide the food that we can. May you be encouraged.
At this point I believe it to be silly that I have yet to greet you in person. It is my goal to come to you before the next rainy season with my mother who has faithfully supported you and the school. I look forward to celebrating the cows with you.
In peace and hope,