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Food is Needed

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Food needed in South Sudan

Dear Mom & Dad,

Send food.
Enough food for two weeks at Excel International Academy in Yei is needed.

Last week’s phone call from the school director was expected. He routinely reports on the students and programs happening on campus. The majority of our Africa ELI sponsored girls and boys are enrolled at Excel.

I anticipated hearing about the outcome of the county sports’ tournament. Our school teams were competing in football (soccer) and volleyball. Instead, I heard,“We will run out of food at school in 10 to 14 days. This is a problem since we have 32 days remaining in the first term of this academic year.”

Listening to Kenneth talk about sky-rocketing market prices and the kilograms of food needed daily to serve 3 meals to 300 boarding students, teachers, and campus personnel, I realized that our food budget was blown away. Our projections for the first term has covered only two-thirds of the actual expenditures.


The toll of renewed warfare in South Sudan (sparked again in December 2013) is now affecting our school operations. Higher prices, reduced stock, greater demand for food staples by families fleeing conflict from other parts of the country are all factors contributing to our immediate food crisis. With the relocation of Excel International Academy from town to its new setting two miles away, the new school garden is not yet producing. Tomatoes, green vegetables, and cabbage were recently planted but are not yet ready for consumption. It will be another 4 to 6 weeks before a garden harvest is available.

You can help in the interim. Making an affordable contribution today toward a goal of $7,000 will help us fill the gap in securing food to finish this school term. Without it, the school term will end early and classroom time will be lost. That’s a problem. Please help us solve, or send a donation to: Africa ELI, 1550 Centervue Crossing – #107, Knoxville, TN 37932.

Thank you!


Aid agencies such as the World Food Program have been contacted for help too. However, they are currently distributing only to elementary schools and to one secondary school per state. Excel is not that “one” school in our state.
In a report released from WFP last week, they wrote, “In South Sudan, 2.5 million people started this year unsure of where their next meal is coming from. Food security analysts believe this number will increase with the start of the lean season in May.”(WFP, April 22, 2015)

Memorable Moments of 2014

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Early in the year we were delighted to learn that Excel International Academy produced four of the Top 10 performing students who completed 2013 exams given by the Ugandan National Examination Board (UNEB). Founder and Director of Excel, Wani Kenneth, along with Teacher Fatuma are shown here celebrating the students’ achievements. An all-school assembly was held to recognize the teachers and students for a “job well done!”

In the springtime, Amherst College in Massachusetts recognized alumna Adrie Kusserow for co-founding the New Sudan Education Initiative (NESEI) along with her husband, Robert Lair, and South Sudanese refugee, Atem Deng. NESEI was the pre-cursor to Africa Education & Leadership Initiative. Africa ELI would not exist if not for Adrie, Robert, and Atem’s work to help establish our organization. We were thrilled to see Adrie and Atem featured in Amherst Magazine!


Another 2014 publication, First Coast Magazine in Florida, showcased our long-time Africa ELI friend –Pat Hipp and the original artwork she creates and sells at Cottage by the Seaside Shoppes, located at Jacksonville Beach. Pat contributes 100% of her sales to our girls’ scholarship fund. Her passion for Africa ELI students stems from her 2011 one month visit to Yei where she met our scholarship recipients and taught arts & crafts classes.

Here’s more of what made us smile in 2014:

Journalist and Author, James Copnall of London, visited Excel International Academy in September. He allowed students to use his electronic equipment to practice interviewing and reporting. He offered feedback to help improve their communication skills. Students also learned about Mr. Copnall’s work as a BBC correspondent and his research for the book, A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce. Mr. Copnall wrote a terrific article for The Guardian about his time with us in Yei.

Under the leadership of college student, Julia Mayeshiba, the United Methodist Women of Wisconsin wrote cheerful letters to our students. They were gladly received and read aloud by our girls and boys during an assembly.

A new partnership was formed between Africa ELI and Future Doctors of South Sudan in order to support aspiring young doctors who need assistance enrolling in and paying for medical school. 

Youngsters in the 5th and 6th grades at Trinity United Methodist Church in York, South Carolina, built birdhouses and sold them to benefit the Africa ELI scholarship fund. 

Chris Mason and Cindy Knape continued baking Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Proceeds from their cookie sales were contributed toward student scholarships.

Club members of Rotary International District 6780 along with members of Marshall UMC in Michigan donated funds exclusively for water and sanitation projects at the new site of Excel International Academy under construction.

Artist Gary Salk of East Tennessee designed and produced original artwork featuring Africa ELI students to help raise awareness and promote our school programs. 

MK Russell and Abbott Heating and Air Conditioning donated space on an electronic billboard in Maryville, Tennessee to bring attention to the need for education in South Sudan.

Amanda Goodwin Smith organized and facilitated a nationwide Africa ELI Bookfair through Barnes and Noble Booksellers

Caroline Njuki, Susan Montgomery, Chris Hurley and Majok Wol dedicated time and energy to serve as members of the Africa ELI Board. Key advisors David and Pat Coffey along with Lucy Gibson and Ariane Schratter continually offer wisdom and support for students and programs. 

It’s impossible to list everyone and everything that made us smile in 2014. If you are reading this message then it is highly likely that YOU have also sparked smiles and given us encouragement in the past twelve months. 

To help launch us into 2015, it’s not too late to make a final tax-deductible gift in 2014. Feel free to give an affordable financial contribution on our Africa ELI donor page hereOr mail a donation to:

Africa ELI

1550 Centervue Crossing – #107, Knoxville, TN 37932

To those who have recently sent donations, please accept our heartfelt gratitude. If you have been thinking about giving, now is the time.

Thank You!

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Every girl pictured on this road headed to school is sponsored by Africa ELI 2014 donors. Each girl has maintained the necessary grades to be awarded an Africa ELI sponsorship at Excel International Academy. Every one of them is thinking beyond the start of this New Year and is focused on the coming years.

Buddies moving forwardEquipped with a secondary education and empowered to promote education for all of South Sudan’s daughters and sons, these girls are changemakers. They will carry forward their reading, math, and science skills to become business and family leaders. They will use abilities they gained as community volunteers through the school’s Health Club to improve the health of their relatives in villages. They are already exhibiting an aptitude for teamwork and peacemaking as they successfully co-exist with their peers from all ten states of South Sudan.

Thank you to Africa ELI 2014 donors who have helped them gain access to classrooms, teachers, textbooks, and computer lessons. Men, women, youth, and children from a variety of schools, churches and neighborhoods across the United States have contributed to the well-being of girls and boys yearning for formal education in the world’s newest country.

Let’s keep moving forward together. You still have time to make a special year-end gift to keep these girls, and others like them, in school for 2015. Please make an affordable contribution on our Africa ELI donor page here. Or you can mail a donation to:

Africa ELI
1550 Centervue Crossing
#107, Knoxville, TN 37932

UPDATE ON CONSTRUCTION of a new Excel International Academy: Our main partner school is working feverishly to build and roof two dormitories and a new classroom block BEFORE school begins again in mid-February. During December, we have been able to send $8,100 toward development of the new campus. To reach our goal of $30,000, an additional $21,900 is still needed.

To those who have recently sent donations, please accept our heartfelt gratitude. If you have been thinking about giving, now is the time. Join the cadre of Africa ELI donors who are on this journey to provide equal access to education for all.



Excel Academy and Africa ELI are covered by the Guardian

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Excel Academy students

Excel Academy students


London news website the Guardian covered recent developments with Excel Academy and Africa ELI this week.

Author and Guardian contributor James Copnall posted this story on Tuesday.

James Copnall is the author of A Poisonous Thorn in our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce. He was the BBC correspondent for Sudan and South Sudan 2009-12, based in Khartoum. He was previously the BBC correspondent for Ivory Coast and Morocco

An Excerpt…

School buildings with mud walls and metal roofs, in which as many as 150 students compete for the attention of the teacher, make an unlikely setting for a South Sudanese success story. Many of the pupils crammed into the basic classrooms are in their mid-20s; others have fled conflict. Education, like everything else in the country, was left in disarray by the two civil wars that led to South Sudan’s independence just over three years ago, and has been further disrupted by the new internal conflict that broke out in December. But despite its many challenges, the Excel Academy, situated in the verdant town of Yei, near the border with Uganda, shows what can be achieved.READ MORE

Beam Us Up!

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Greetings from Yei!

Our main Africa ELI education partner, Excel International Academy, has enough resources to construct a classroom building block and two dormitories to “beam level.” That means Excel personnel and Africa ELI donors have so far contributed enough money for brick-making, river sand, cement (345 very heavy sacks of cement!), foundation stones (even heavier than the cement bag!), one newly drilled water well, and local laborers to clear land, construct flooring, and set wall beams. Thank you!

Now we need three rooftops! We have to protect the children and teachers inside from the sun, rain, and windy dust storms! In talking with Mr. Kenneth Wani, the entrepreneurial founder and director of Excel International Academy (and Africa ELI employee from 2008-2013), a bare minimum of $25,000 will help us secure roofing materials for all three structures and pay the local laborers to continue construction.

In this instance, time is not our friend. Let’s review.

In 2008, Africa ELI donors constructed a large, rural high school campus in Mukaya. It was initially operated by Africa ELI personnel and has since been gifted back to the community for long-term sustainability. It is being run by a local school committee in cooperation with Excel International Academy personnel. The 2014 enrollment stands at 138 girls and boys. Africa ELI donors helped Excel to rehabilitate and open two additional campuses in Morobo and Yei, respectively. The Morobo campus is now under the operation of county officials and a local PTA. The Yei town campus sits on leased land from the local Episcopal diocese. The church wants the land back for their further development. Excel, nor Africa ELI, can afford the premium cost set for an extended lease. Purchasing the land is not an option. So, we have considered this challenging situation as an opportunity! (Making lemonade out of lemons!)

With appropriate legal documentation secured from the Jansuk community elders and local county officials, property of 200 x 250 Meters (approximately seven [7] acres) of affordable land has been purchased by Wani Kenneth Evans. It is approximately two miles from the current Yei town main campus.

The new school must be constructed and open by February 2015 in order to not disrupt the education of current Excel students.

Let’s rally to help construct these three rooftops! Please give today!

Give online here or send a check to: Africa ELI, 1550 Centervue Crossing #107, Knoxville, TN 37932.

Let’s do this! Beam us up!
From Yei,

P.S. – If you have ever given to Africa ELI school projects, try to match or increase your previous donations. If you have never given, but have thought about making a donation, now is the time for your action! Thank you!