HELPSudan at the Global Activism Expo

HELPSudan was included again in the annual Global Activism Expo, our sixth year. We enjoy meeting and networking with other organizations that work in Africa, as well as learn all the great things that other orgs are doing around the world. Many thanks to WBEZ for hosting every year and allowing us to be involved. Also, thanks to everyone who visited our booth to say hello, we enjoy seeing old friends every year and getting to know new friends!

Forget our connection to WBEZ? Listen to our appearances on World View in 2009 and 2008.

Drilling Started at Mareng Mix Primary School

We are happy to announce that drilling has started on the water well at our new project location, Mareng Mix Primary School! We were able to partner with International Aid Services to get the well installed. IAS will also host training for the community once the well is finished.

Phase II Completed!

Click on the image to view the video update on youtube.

Watch HELPSudan Founder, Jok Kuol Wel, give an update on the completion of Phase 2 at Thianwei School in South Sudan. Through Spring and Summer of 2011, he oversaw the construction of the 4 more classrooms, three pit latrines, the installation of desks and school furniture, and provision of school uniforms for the students. A very special thank you to Rotary of Edson, and Rotary International for partnering with us. Their specific contribution went towards part of the school building and purchased the desks, uniforms and the pit latrines. We are so very thankful for their friendship, they've made such a huge difference in the lives of the children at Thianwei.

There are now classrooms for all grade levels being taught at Thianwei, as well as a room for teachers to gather and prepare their lessons. The children are enthusiastic to learn, and are thankful for our efforts to provide a safe, clean and dry place in which to study.

The village around Thianwei is growing now, because people from more distant villages are moving closer to the school and fresh water from the well that HELPSudan installed. People are so excited that just before Jok left Thianwei to return to Chicago one student excitedly proclaimed: "Thianwei is now looking like a small city!"

Thanks to your financial partnership with HELPSudan, Thianwei School is making a difference in the lives of children and families in South Sudan. Thank you for your ongoing support.

HELPSudan at the Global Activism Expo

HELPSudan was included again in the annual Global Activism Expo, our fourth year. It is amazing to see how much the expo has grown from the first year at the armory four years ago. It's always uplifting to see so many global orgs under one roof and all the interested individuals that come to learn what they can do to make the world a better place. Many thanks to WBEZ for hosting every year and allowing us to be involved. Also, thanks to everyone who visited our booth, we so enjoy getting to know everyone!

Forget our connection to WBEZ? Listen to our appearances on World View in 2009 and 2008.

Phase II Nearing Completion

We are so excited to share that Phase II is moving along marvelously and the walls will be finished in the next two weeks. We were thrilled to see the progress in photos Jok sent to us a few days ago. Although the photos are from a week ago, it's clear that we are nearing the end of our second block of classrooms, making a total of 8 much needed sturdy and rain safe classrooms. One of the students observed that the campus is starting to look like a small city, with the first permanent buildings in the area and villagers moving their homesteads closer to the school.

Jok Heading to Sudan to Begin Phase II

Although we are sad to see Jok go, we are happy to announce that Jok has left for Sudan to oversee the building of Phase II, our second block of four classrooms at Thianwei Primary. He will be gone until June 12 when he will return just in time for his summer classes and with the exciting news that Phase II is complete!

Jok Gets Out the Vote
Luol Deng casts vote with HELPSudan Founder Jok Kuol Wel in historical Referendum vote.

Luol Deng, of the Chicago Bulls, casts his vote at the Chicago
polling center with HELPSudan founder, Jok Kuol Wel.
Associated Press photo.

Yesterday, January 9, 2011, was a day for the history books of Sudan. In Sudan, and points around the globe, voting for the Referendum on Independence opened.

In recent weeks, two of HELPSudan's founders, Jok Kuol Wel and Duot Aguer, have served as polling center staff in Chicago to help accommodate voting for Sudanese living in the US Midwest. And today, as voting opened, Luol Deng, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, cast his vote with Jok Kuol Wel receiving the ballot.

HELPSudan is an apolitical not-for-profit organization that celebrates with Sudanese everywhere in this referendum as an expression of freedom and democracy. We continue to monitor the situation closely, look forward to a peaceful culmination of this process, and remain committed and prepared to continue our work in Sudan.

Phase I Complete!

HELPSudan Founder, Jok Kuol Wel, just returned home to Chicago from a 3 month stay in Bor, Sudan where he wrapped up Phase 1 at Thianwei School. He oversaw the construction of the first 4 classrooms of our first permanent school building in Southern Sudan.

The villagers and children were very happy with the results of his efforts, and look forward to the eventual completion of all 12 classrooms.

The children are enthusiastic to learn, and are thankful for our efforts to provide a safe, clean and dry place which to study.

Jok returns safely to US after 9 months in Sudan!
Brick Making

Workers making rows and rows of bricks.

HELPSudan’s Executive Director and cofounder, Jok Kuol Wel, has returned safely to Chicago after spending the last 9 months in Bor, Sudan. While in Sudan, Jok oversaw the completion of HELPSudan’s compound in Bor, which will serve as our headquarters in Sudan. The bulk of Jok’s time was spent working with the Thianwei community to recruit and train workers to produce Compressed Earth Blocks, which creates jobs, is more sustainable than purchasing concrete, and reduces costs by using locally available soil with only a small amount of purchased cement. Construction of permanent classrooms using the blocks produced will begin at Thianwei Primary later this year, after the rainy season passes.

Keep the work going! By contributing to the construction of permanent school buildings at Thianwei Primary, these bricks can be turned into classrooms. Brick classrooms provide an appropriate learning environment for Sudanese children and replace mud huts that are crowded and crumbling.


Update From Sudan

Jok called recently to update us on the progress being made at Thianwei and we’d like to share some exciting news with you. Jok has been working with the community elders to put together a plan for producing the bricks for a permanent school building. The result of those meetings has been that HELPSudan will provide the brick making machines, supplies, and a construction crew to erect the buildings with the bricks made by the community, while the elders gathered the community and agreed to pay the workers to produce the bricks.

This has had the effect of creating 90 new jobs immediately, 30 workers per day in a 3-day rotation (they need the rest, it’s really, really hot!). When we spoke to Jok, the community had already produced over 2,000 bricks! The bricks are strong, and in addition to creating jobs, the method used to produce them reduces the cost from $3.50 to purchase a cement brick, to $0.50 per brick produced locally.

We will need 10,000 bricks by the end of April in order to begin construction on a permanent structure at Thianwei before the rainy season hits, so there is a lot of hard work ahead. But, this is extremely encouraging news!

Ajang's News From Sudan

Ajang Bol recently travelled to Sudan to see family and friends. While there, he is staying and working with Jok at the HELPSudan Compound. We will update you on their progress in the near future, but we have a major personal announcement… Ajang is engaged! The wedding will take place in May before he returns to the US. Congratulations Ajang!

Jok Returns to Sudan

Shortly after Jok returned to Sudan after the HELPSudan Birthday Party for the Lost Boys in January, the first phase of the HELPSudan Compound in Bor was completed! It has a main room/office and three bedrooms than can sleep up to 4 each. In addition, the Compound has a security gate and two pit latrines.

The compound will serve as the center of HELPSudan operations in Sudan as well as a place to stay for volunteers on future trips (hint, hint)! This is a major step forward for HELPSudan and the Board of Directors would like to express our deep gratitude to everyone whose support has made this possible.

2008 Highlights
New well at Thianwei.

Workers test the brand new well dug for HELPSudan's school at Thianwei.

It has been an amazing year for HELPSudan!

Thanks to your generosity, we exceeded our fund raising goal by more than $20,000! With those funds we were able to hire one of our cofounders, Jok Kuol Wel, as our first Director in the Fall of 2008. Jok was invited to present our mission in several venues, including schools, church and community groups, a large corporate/business forum, and Global Activism Expo in Chicago.

We are harnessing our online presence by making connections around the world and developing grass roots fund raising partnerships with all kinds of different people, schools, churches and community groups. Here are some highlights:

  • Jessie Lilly, a student at Parkland Composite High School in Edson, Alberta, Canada. There was an outdoor barbecue, and then a silent auction comprised of student art work. The event raised over $11,000 for HELPSudan.
  • Lumia Huhdanpää, a friend who lives in Germany has mobilized an international knitters community, who have dedicated themselves to making custom pen/pencil cases to be used for a silent auction at our fund raiser and to be distributed to students at our schools in Sudan!
  • In September we completed a fresh water well in Bor, Sudan. Now fresh, clean water is being provided for all of our students and thousands of villagers in the surrounding area.
  • We have begun to harness the interest of people all over the US by developing a HELPSudan Chapter kit which will help more volunteers in organizing their own awareness and fund raising efforts in other states.
  • We have purchased a truck in Uganda to use for shipping supplies and equipment to our projects in Sudan.
  • We purchased two manually operated pressed earth brick making machines, and villagers will be trained how to make bricks, then those bricks will be used to build a permanent school building.
  • Jok, has spent the last 4 months in Sudan overseeing the project and shepherding the process of getting permits, purchasing supplies, preparing the building project, etc. And two Board members recently joined Jok in Sudan for 10 days in order to kick-off the training program on the brick machines. Nick Bailey is an IIT graduate in Mechanical Engineering, and Lauren Swihart is a professional photographer.

Looking ahead to 2009, things look even more promising!

  • HELPSudan will again be featured on the Worldview talk show, on Chicago Public Radio. Host Jerome McDonnell will interview Jok and Board Member Lauren Swihart on January 22, 2009, at 12pm (noon.) You can listen to last years show in the Worldview archives by clicking here.
  • Our third annual fundraiser, The Birthday Party for The Lost Boys, will be held on Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 6pm.
  • Watch this space for an update after the event on our goals for 2009!

Finally we want to thank the multitudes of you who have helped make a difference in Southern Sudan by your financial support. We are especially grateful to the many of you who have organized your own fundraising efforts for this cause. None of this would be possible without you!

Halfway Through the Year Update

It is hard to believe that almost 6 months has passed since the Lost Boys Birthday Party in January. HELPSudan is pleased to report that we are on track to accomplish our goals this year! We have raised more than half of our $100,000 fundraising goal for 2008 and progress is being made on a well and permanent buildings at Thanwei! Thank you to all of our supporters that have made that a possibility.

Late last year we were told that the well had started to run dry at Thianwei and it takes half an hour of hand pumping to get water to flow. One of HELPSudan’s priorities in 2008 has been to dig a fresh well on school grounds to supply drinking water to the students. Jok has been working with Abraham (the headmaster at Thianwei) to coordinate the well digging plans and they are in the final stages of making arrangements with a local Sudanese company. Construction of the well should begin within weeks and be completed before the end of August!

School building progress is steady but slow due to the rainy season. We are currently waiting on soil tests to be completed near Thianwei. Once results have been analyzed we can make final selections regarding brick making machines, etc. The first building team is scheduled to be sent in the fall to teach the community in Bor how to make bricks from locally available soil and aggregate. It will take about 2-4 weeks to produce the bricks required for the school buildings and then another month to cure. A second team will then be sent to begin construction of the school. We are very excited about this process, as the community will be able to produce bricks for their own homes from locally available materials once the school has been completed.

We have had a great first half of the year, and have an even more challenging and exciting road ahead of us for the second half. Thanks for your support so far this year!

Summer School!

HELPSudan has had an outpouring of support this summer from young people all over North America and we want to recognize the students that have gone out of their way to make a difference in the lives of children in Sudan.

Jessie Lilly, a high school Freshman at Parkland Composite High School in Edson, Alberta, Canada, organized a barbeque and art auction in her hometown on June 3 to benefit HELPSudan. Local artists and fellow students donated more than 40 works of art. The event was a huge success and exceeded Jessie’s fundraising goal of $10,000. As an added bonus, all plates and cups at the barbeque were 100% biodegradable!

After studying the Lost Boys in Brenda Foust’s World History classes, 4 high school sophomore classes in Iowa (110 students!) wanted to raise money to help Sudan. Together, they sold recycled glass beaded bracelets and raised nearly $800 to help educate children in Sudan!

Laura Krughoff, currently pursuing her Ph.D., hosted an event at Evanston Friends on May 31st benefitting HELPSudan and Jewish World Watch. Jok, Ajang, and a couple other board members attended. We had a potluck dinner, watched HELPSudan | IMPERATIVES, viewed a photographic documentation of Darfur, and listened to Jok speak. Those in attendance gave nearly $1,000 as well as a very generous matching donation for a total of almost $2,000!

Emily Coalson's 6th grade students at KIPP : LA Prep Middle School worked to educate family and friends about the plight of people in Sudan. Through bake sales and other fundraising efforts, they raised $200 to help the kids at Thianwei in Bor, Sudan!

Youth Helping Youth from Next Step, an Outreach School in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada came up with the great idea of holding a Wake-A-Thon. Several students stayed up all night and raised $754 for HELPSudan! More information about this event can be seen in our May 2008 Newsletter.

HELPSudan wants to share more exciting stories like these in every Newsletter. If you have put creative fund raising ideas into action, we want to hear from you. If you have held or would like to host an event for HELPSudan, please contact us at


On Saturday, June 8, HELPSudan participated in walkSUDAN, a 5K walk-a-thon to raise awareness about the plight of the Lost Boys. Organized by and also partnering with Panyijiar Community Development Services (, the walk along the Chicago lake front was almost rained out. 30+ people trudged on though, chanting “They walked to live… We walk to give!” Check out the footage on our YouTube page.

The organizers of the event made a 20 year commitment to the Lost Boys, promising to have the walk every year to help rebuild Sudan.

HELPSudan featured on CAN TV, a Chicago area cable network.

On Friday, March 28, HELPSudan was featured on Focus On Africa, a talk show on CAN TV. Host Samuel Memoh interviewed Founder Jok Kuol Wel, and Chairman Del Shimandle about HELPSudan’s efforts to establish schools, recruit teachers and provide school supplies, clean water and health resources in southern Sudan.

Happy Birthday Lost Boys! Annual Fundraiser a Huge Success!

When the Lost Boys came to the United States, most did not know their date of birth, so the US Government assigned them all January 1st. As a way to celebrate, HELPSudan’s annual fundraiser is a Birthday Party for the Lost Boys held in January.

And what a party it was… Held at the beautiful Swedish American Museum on Chicago’s north side, we were thrilled that the bitter cold weather didn’t keep anyone from attending. In fact, we had a capacity crowd! Our first attempt at a Silent Auction was a terrific success, the food was delicious, the décor was elegant, and the Lost Boys Choir was a rousing highlight. The debut of our “IMPERATIVES” video was well received, and coupled with Arloa Sutter’s enthusiasm and her challenge to give, we were able to get off to a great start with our fund raising goal for 2008.

We have great news to tell you! With gifts given through the start of the year and at the fundraiser on Saturday, the total amount raised is more than $33,000! We’re very grateful to each one of you for your generous support.

HELPSudan featured on Worldview

On Thursday, January 17, HELPSudan was featured on the Worldview talk show on Chicago Public Radio. Host Jerome McDonnell interviewed Founder Jok Kuol Wel and Board Chairman Del Shimandle and encouraged listeners to come out to our 2nd Annual Fundraiser, the Birthday Party for the Lost Boys. You can listen to the show on the Worldview website.

Success in 2007… Goals for 2008

Happy New Year! 2007 was a great year for us. We exceeded our goal and raised over $40,000! With those funds we were able to continue paying 10 teacher salaries, send three board members to visit the school and to bring school supplies, blankets and mosquito nets, and also to purchase a cellular phone for the headmaster in order to facilitate regular communication with us.

We are also proud to announce that the Thianwei school is so successful and so well appreciated by the community that, late in 2007, the local government body decided to take over responsibility of paying the teacher salaries!

From the beginning it has been our goal to start schools in a self-sustaining model, providing financial and logistical support as a means of jump-starting efforts that would be taken over by the Sudanese themselves. We are thankful that the community and the local government recognize the quality of Thianwei school. But even more, we are thrilled with the opportunity it gives us to focus our efforts on even more substantial goals in 2008: we are developing plans to dig a fresh well and to build a permanent school building for Thianwei school.

Fundraising Goal Almost Met!

HELPSudan is very pleased to announce that we are within $6,000 of achieving our 2007 fundraising goal of $40,000!  Thanks to your support we are confidently able to say that HELPSudan will provide a stipend for the entire year to Thianwei Headmaster Abraham Akech, the Deputy Headmaster, nine teachers, and three cooks that prepare meals for students every day!
We still need that last push to meet the goal of $40,000 and we need your help to do it!  Please click on the donation link above for details about how to get involved with HELPSudan.  (Online donations are coming soon!)

Web Changes

If this isn’t your first trip to HELPSudan’s website, you may have noticed quite a few changes.  At this point, they have mostly been cosmetic but we aren’t done yet!  We are in the process of updating content (including the news!) as you read this.  Several new features lie in the near future including a sign up form for our e-newsletter, an RSS news feed, online donations, and a couple other surprises we’re working on.  Please keep checking back as these updates happen, but right now please check out the newest feature, our Media Page!  Just click the Media link above to view a video of the exploratory mission to Sudan that three HELPSudan board members went on earlier this year as well as an awesome journal that Eric kept during journey… more to come!

Ajang Returns

Some of you know, and some of you may not, that Ajang “Michael” Bol (one of HELPSudan’s founding board members) recently returned home to Bor, Sudan for three months.  While there, he reunited with several family members he has not seen in over 20 years.  He visited Thianwei and spent a few days working with Headmaster Abraham and even taught a few classes while he was there!  Michael also helped to make the first funds transfer directly to Thianwei’s bank account in Sudan, which provided three months stipend for everyone volunteering at Thianwei  Ajang has returned to the US safely.