South Sudan natives lead effort to build school - Catholic Courier

South Sudan natives lead effort to build school

Had Kuc Majak stayed in his native southern Sudan, he may have been killed during the decades of civil wars that ripped through the countryside, or he may have wasted away from illness or the desolation the war left in its wake.

That was the fate of his parents and six siblings, who perished in the war and aftermath in southern Sudan, leaving behind nieces and nephews whom Majak supports.

During the years of warfare, Majak was out of the country studying in Lebanon, and then working as a teacher in Libya, Yemen and Rochester. Locally, he has worked as a substitute teacher, certified nursing assistant and an academic coach with Rochester City School District’s International Academy, while also studying for his master’s degree.

Although he has lived in Rochester since 2001, Majak, now a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Rochester, has not stopped working on behalf of South Sudan, which in 2011 became independent from Sudan.

"They created the country from scratch," Majak said.

He and his wife, Achay Dau, are leading a grassroots effort to build a vocational and technical school, which is needed to train a skilled labor force to help develop the country, he said. The long-standing warfare destroyed many of South Sudan’s school buildings, and schools that do operate now often gather under trees.

Majak said he has received commitments of support from St. Mary parishioners. He hopes to spread news of his project at other parishes as well.

The idea for the vocational and technical school dates back to 2007, when he journeyed back to the country for the first time in 27 years. On that trip, he was struck by how the country’s infrastructure had been destroyed, and homeless children roamed the streets.

"If I train a child, the child will have a tool box of skills to go into the community and find a job," said Majak, who is cofounder of the local nonprofit African Services Foundation, which aids local African refugees and which is developing the school.

The vocational school would prepare students to be auto mechanics, carpenters, electricians and welders, builders and bricklayers, nurses, bookkeepers and accountants, computer users and ox farmers. It also would teach literacy and computer-usage skills.

Majak spreads out a pencil-drawn plan for the Vocational Training Institute in South Sudan. The local government is donating an empty plot for the project midway between the towns of Aweil and Wau in Northern Bhar El-Ghazal State, and community members have agreed to help lay bricks to build the project.

On the map, there’s a newly constructed and unpaved road marked along one edge. He also has penciled in rectangles to represent the workshops, dormitories, community center and farm area that would help make the vocational school sustainable.

He wants to start small, with one class costing $15,000 and an auto mechanic workshop costing $40,000 opening for the 2012-13 academic year. The idea for the vocational and technical school dates back to 2007, when he journeyed back to the country for the first time in 27 years.

A well also will be required and is estimated to cost $15,000. When fully developed, the project is estimated to cost $345,0000.

Majak said he plans to oversee the school in person during its first year to help it get started. He welcomes the chance to make a difference in his home country.

"My life has changed dramatically, which made me also want to change the lives of hundreds of people," he said.

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