Rebuild South Sudan’s New Executive Director

Published July 9, 2016

Katie Rivers officially stepped into the role of Executive Director on July 1, 2016.

When Michael Kuany held the door open for me at small San Francisco restaurant on 22nd Street, I walked through it. But that wasn’t the only door he held open for me that October evening in 2010. As Michael sat and ate with me, my life as I had known it was coming to an end. My then husband had just left and my future was blank and uncertain. I could not have imagined that on July 1, 2016, I would be officially stepping into non-profit leadership as the executive director for Rebuild South Sudan.

Michael grieved with me as we spoke of the turbulent road of forgiveness and reconciliation. He had just finished his Master’s Degree in conflict transformation. Forgiveness being deeply connected to his life’s work, his vision for transforming the violent conflict in South Sudan started to become my vision as well. Forgiveness was the road that stretched out before me, beckoning. At this intersection of our separate yet connected quests to live out forgiveness, Michael held open that second door, one that would lead into a second life and a new found passion. He invited me to be on the board of directors for Rebuild South Sudan, then Rebuild Sudan.

That winter I followed up with a phone call to the board president at the time, Jill Sornson Kurtz. My shoes clicking on the city sidewalk and a flip phone to my ear, Jill outlined the responsibilities of the board members. Mostly what I remember from that conversation, is my fear: fundraising. (Now a days, in the industry we call it Development.) I had serious doubts that I could raise the minimum $5,000 USD. I was nervous to ask people for money. And now five and a half years later, I’m officially stepping into the executive director role excited to talk about the project, the challenges, the joys, and most of all the people of South Sudan. What’s more is that now I’m honored to invite people into financial participation. I no longer feel like I’m imposing on people, and I’m clear about what I’m inviting people to: assist with development, support education, and most of all participate in the healing of a nation.

On July 1, 2016, I woke up as the executive director of Rebuild South Sudan, excited and scared about the non-profit leadership path that was waiting for me. This is an exciting next step for rebuild South Sudan in moving one step closer to a sustainable organization. For the last four years we have been entirely volunteer run. In 2013 and 2014 we barely hung on as South Sudan broke out into war and the organization was running on just a few board members. In 2015 I transitioned our organization from the working board model (the board members also do the work that a staff would typically do) into a volunteer run model freeing up board members to focus on policy and development.

It was my goal to operate on the volunteer run model for two years, and that by the end of those two years I wanted us to have two South Sudanese paid staff members and one American paid staff member. Above all, my priority was for the South Sudanese to be paid first.


This is something as I’ve had to let go of as the limitations of the volunteer run model have come into play and my own life became unsustainable. Being paid for this work allows me to not have to work temp jobs on top of working for Rebuild South Sudan and going to school. It allows me to take care of myself so that I am equipped to advocate for the kids, parents, teachers in Jalle Payem.

As I clear more space in my life to focus on education and healing from war in South Sudan, I can’t go it alone. I’m inviting you to come with me even deeper. I need your support. Consider partnering with me for $25 or $50 a month. Make me your representative to South Sudan, the the people of Jalle. Send me deeper into the work of Rebuild South Sudan.


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