Thursday, April 26, 2012

All In A Day's Tour - Wisconsin

Laptop, projector and extension cords. Check.
Water, Coke®, and coffee. Check.
Host driver, vehicle with fuel, and destination map. Check.

That’s how Africa ELI rolls. Ready and willing to connect with donors across the United States, we pack our bags, freshen up our presentation with current photos from South Sudan, and hit the road or fly the friendly skies to a location near you.

Sue Plasterer from Madison, Wisconsin coordinated the most recent Africa ELI advocacy and fundraising tour. It was Anita’s 5th visit to the state. Of our 21 donor states, Wisconsin ranks in the top three for contributing sponsorships and resources for students and projects in South Sudan.

Here are 10 tidbits about the recent Wisconsin 10-day tour:

Miles traveled in the state: 1,200
Presentation venues: 21 (schools, churches, Rotary meetings, private homes, and a YWCA)
Host drivers: 9 (Thanks, Sue P., Keith, Sue C., Donna, Arlene, Marilyn, Bernice, Wendell, and Gail!)
Weather: sun, rain, tornadoes, snow
McDonald’s® drive-thrus: 8
Church potlucks: 11
Anita singing the first phrase of the South Sudan national anthem: 19 (Rotarians were spared)
Photographs with really big cow statues: 2
Lost cell phones: 1 (recovered!)
Pictures posted to Anita’s Facebook “Dairyland” album: 38

A significant highlight was an announcement from the Wisconsin Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church identifying Africa ELI as an official mission project. This means that any contributing United Methodist Church group desiring credit for mission giving may direct checks through the Wisconsin UMC Conference, PO Box 620, Sun Prairie, WI 53590. The official project number for Africa ELI is #7951.

Next year’s 2013 Wisconsin tour is already being planned. It’s not too early to request a presentation for your church, organization, or group.

Next up? Alabama, Illinois and East Tennessee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Milk Truck

The ultimate in recycling and reusing - a toy truck made by a child in Yei.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wine, Water, Motherhood and Education

On Third Street in Wasau, Wisconsin, there is a delightful family-owned independent bookshop. It’s called Janke Book Store and is jam-packed with newly published material, favorite oldies, and a bargain basement full of various reading genres.

A Janke employee is a fan and supporter of Africa ELI students. She escorted me to this locally treasured shop and gave me time to roam the aisles and browse through the shelves. It was a pleasant surprise to find Doc Hendley’s new book, “Wine to Water,” on display near the front door. Lest you think I’m mixing up words from an old biblical story about water being turned into wine, I can assure you that this is the correct title. Doc is a “preacher’s son turned bartender and accidental humanitarian” who works to bring clean water to people in places like Darfur, South Sudan, Uganda, Haiti and Cambodia. He’s a 2009 CNN-hero who teaches indigenous people how to repair broken wells.

Feeling a slight glow from discovering a book with stories about South Sudan so near to the front door, I began searching for any and all other things that might feature Africa’s 54th and youngest country.

Bingo! While not exclusively about South Sudan, I found “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” by Mumbi Mwangi, Ph.D. She is a woman from the East Africa neighborhood. A Kenyan, she has researched the education of African girls and written about African women pursuing higher education in the USA. She interviewed three women who revealed their challenges in contradicting common values of African tradition. These women struggled to overcome “gender inequalities and stereotypes that inhibit African women’s access to education.” Reaching beyond the idea that African women must be domestic and aspire for motherhood over educational gains, she reveals the “tremendous personal strength, courage, and determination” it takes for girls and women to achieve academic goals in a traditionally patriarchal environment. She asserts that motherhood and domesticity are not incompatible with education and professional development.

“Wine to Water” and “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” are stories of human interest and insights into the potential of people with passion and a cause.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back Seat Drivers

“Peep. Peep. Peep.” For about 4 miles, that was the conversation among the new Excel Academy chickens riding in the truck’s back seat. They were on their way to the Mukaya campus where they would become a part of the agriculture program. Caring for and feeding the chickens would provide a practical learning experience for our students. Eventually the chickens would add protein to the students’ diet.

Agriculture is an important component of secondary education in South Sudan. Big open spaces and fertile land in the equatorial region offer students an opportunity to cultivate, plant, grow and harvest gardens as well as to raise livestock. It is common to see cabbages, tomatoes, okra and other nutritious food growing in small plots at Africa ELI sponsored schools. And no one gives it a second thought when goats or chickens wander through a classroom during English, math or science instruction. Occasionally, a rabbit will hop between the desks.

Africa ELI promotes practical agricultural learning experiences at each Excel Academy. By contributing resources toward garden seeds and tools along with supplying livestock for animal husbandry projects, Africa ELI works toward sustainable solutions in a developing environment. A robust agriculture program in secondary school will contribute to the students’ ability to grow and provide food for their future families and communities. Surplus crops may be sold for income generation with the earnings applied toward staple products and daily expenses.

Here are photos of some crops and livestock at Africa ELI supported schools.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Africa ELI in Wisconsin

Wednesday, April 11, marks the start of Africa ELI’s 5th visit to America’s dairy land, Wisconsin. A ten-day speaking tour will begin in Cargill and conclude in Sun Prairie. If you would like to learn more about Africa ELI South Sudan programs, feel free to come to one of the following public presentations:

Wed, April 11 @ 6 p.m. – Cargill UMC

Thurs, April 12 @6:45 a.m. – Janesville Morning Rotary Club
Thurs, April 12 @10 a.m. – WCLO Radio
Thurs. April 12 @ Noon – Brodhead UMC
Thurs. April 12 @ 5:30 p.m. – Bethany and Agape UMC

Fri, April 13 @ Noon – Lodi UMC
Fri, April 13 @ 5 p.m. – The University of Wisconsin – attending The Crossing Gala

Sat, April 14 @ 10:30 a.m. – Oshkosh Algoma Blvd UMC

Sun, April 15 @ 8 a.m. – Port Edwards UMC
Sun, April 15 @ 6:30 p.m. – Portage UMC

Mon, April 16 @ 9 a.m. – Janesville Academy, UW- Rock County
Mon, April 16 @ Noon – Janesville Rotary meet & greet

Wed, April 18 @ 9:30 a.m. – Whitewater UMC
Wed, April 18 @ 6:45 p.m. – Mauston UMC

Thurs, April 19 @ Noon – Minocqua UMC
Thurs, April 19 @ 6:30 p.m. – Wausau First UMC

 To view photos from the 2011 tour, check out our Facebook album : Wisconsin Spring 2011

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bridging the Gap : Betty's Story

We hope you’re familiar by now with Africa ELI’s mission to “bridge gender gaps through education.” Today we want to share a shining example of this mission with you by spotlighting Betty, a member of Africa ELI’s first graduating class of sponsored students. She started her secondary education in 2008 and completed it in November of 2011. After passing her final exams and graduating from senior secondary school, she was equipped to start a job as a teacher and empowered to pay her own tuition fees for further training. She now earns enough to pay her own tuition and share income with her family!

For a full month Betty has been employed as a nursery school teacher. She arrives at the local school by 8:30 a.m. and cares for the young children until noon each day. When finished, she has enough time for lunch and commuting by foot to attend a daily teacher training course from 3 – 6:30 p.m. Betty is so thrilled to be making the payments for her advanced education without having to rely on anyone else to pay her way-- She proudly exclaims, “I am bridging the gap!”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celebrating Student Athletes

 Excel Academy girls' netball team.
Netball may look like basketball without the backboard, but players may only take one step with the ball before they must pass it off or shoot. In this county tournament, the Excel Academy girls' team came from behind and tied the game 10-10. The girls made it to the semi-finals round of the tournament. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seat 34-D Airplane Reading

Traveling between America and South Sudan generally allows for some minutes in a small bookshop in the Entebbe, Uganda airport. Several years ago when the terminal was being upgraded I was delighted about the addition of this literary nook. It has not disappointed me.

Here are a couple of titles purchased that may not be readily available on American bookshelves. It’s likely they can be found online for those who also are avid readers of all things Africa.

Season of Rains – Africa in the World by Stephen Ellis (With a Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) ©2011. Personally tired of rhetoric and reports about how dangerous, poor, and illiterate Africans are, I found this a refreshing read. Reading the book’s jacket cover, I knew it would be worth my time to learn about Mr. Ellis’ research:

“Most of what is written about Africa is framed in terms that have been out of date for years. Too often it is seen as heading for either disaster or salvation; the realities are subtler, more complicated than this binary opposition suggests...Africa is better networked and more influential than ever before.”

Africa – The Politics of Suffering and Smiling by Patrick Chabal ©2009. Attracted to the perspective identifying Africa’s progress, this was another selection that captured my attention.

“Instead of raising the issue of why Africa has not developed, we are directed to consider the extraordinary ways in which Africans have adapted to rapidly changing international circumstances…Africa’s situation has evolved massively.”

Africa ELI is a witness to the progress being made in East Africa, especially South Sudan. It’s uplifting to see scholars reporting on research which recognizes the advances made and the power of the people to further develop the continent.

Maybe one of our Africa ELI students will write a book in the future about how she worked to bridge gender gaps and fill the void as an empowered, educated African woman in leadership. That would definitely be a must-read on my booklist.