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A feature of this new 2 + 1 blog is the “Timeline” tab. Have you seen it? It reflects concurrent events happening around the world, in the USA, Sudan and South Sudan while Africa ELI was getting established, developing programs, and educating secondary students. It’s interesting to look back and acknowledge some considerable successes, as well as to cringe when remembering some of our successful failures.

Back in 2008 when we opened our school doors for the first time, did we understand the need to stockpile food and fuel during the rainy season when we were flooded on campus for days without access to a market? Nope.

Did we know that sanitary pads for hundreds of girls were necessary to include in a school budget. Nuh-uh.

Did I know the nuances of language in another culture that allowed me to understand that hearing, “she is smart,” really means “she is dressed well” and not necessarily excelling in classes? I didn’t.

On the other hand, did Africa ELI quit serving young girls when we experienced insecurity at our original school out in the bush? No. We adjusted to our circumstances and developed public-private partnerships with existing schools to keep the girls in a productive, learning environment.

On days when the truck tires go flat and we get stuck on the side of a muddy road, delaying the start of a program, do we fold up and forget about it? Nope. We recognize that we cannot control all our circumstances but we can call on neighbors and partners for help to get us on the road again.

When students worry, fret, fight, or want to give up for all the reasons that teenagers have to act out, do we shrug our shoulders in defeat and say, “we tried,” and then walk away. Even on the days that option may seem attractive, we absolutely stay, rally and keep moving forward.

Africa ELI has staying power. What was an idea in 2005 has turned into a full-fledged, scrappy, nimble organization making it possible for a growing number of girls to get equal access to education in South Sudan. That’s what we do. With the continued encouragement and help of friends, partners and donors, we will keep doing it.

-Anita