It is an honor and privilege to introduce to you the Dut Jok Youth Foundation. Based on hope, hard work, and resilience, the foundation works to fight poverty and violence in post-conflict South Sudan by empowering the youth through sports and academics. Dut Jok, my father, was a selfless servant to his people of South Sudan, and emphasized education, above all else, as the key to personal and national freedom. As a general in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), he used his resources to benefit family and strangers alike. His death left a hole in my tribe, the Gok Dinka, and it is my belief that if he were alive today he would be an advocate for my foundations cause. In a country where the youth account for 70% of the population, they are our most vital resource in changing the future of Sudan’s violent past.
Together with partnerships and support of other youth development organizations, Not-For-Profits, and individuals like yourself motivated by the desire to change lives, we aim to harness the youth’s potential by providing opportunities through academics and sports to offset the post-war disenfranchisement of the current generation. South Sudan is the world’s newest country after decades of struggle for freedom. Despite unprecedented optimism surrounding the young nation, it faces an up-hill climb that will take both time and cooperative work by individuals both there and abroad.
According to a 2011 UNESO report on education in South Sudan, 80% of the population lacks the ability to read and write. The 2008 South Sudan census found that 40% of married women were married under the legal age of 18, while 11% of those married were done so before the age of 15. The relevance of these statistics can be seen in the fact that the region will develop only at the speed of development of its young people. The spread of HIV/AIDS, violence, substance abuse, the lack of education and leadership development coupled with immense gender barriers threatens to slow or destroy what fragile progress the region has made.
It is through my experiences both as a first hand observer of Sudan’s violent history and the lessons I have learned through sports and my education that I hope to combat these disruptive forces. Self-discipline, intrinsically found in, and reinforced by sports, allowed me time after time to overcome my odds. Lessons learned through my participation in basketball, soccer, and cross-country such as work ethic, teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and self-confidence, I applied to my work in the classroom. These attributes allowed me to carry a 3.9 GPA at an American high school where I did not learn to speak English until I was 13. It is this success in the classroom that brought me to an Ivy League institution. Education has transformed the person I am; from an angry young man who thought fighting was the only solution, to an individual who now considers violence as a last resort and education as the key to empowerment.
With that said, I hope you can help us give the youth of South Sudan the ingredients they need to develop themselves, their families, their communities, and their country. We are all where we are today because of the belief others invested in us. Someone else thought we were worth the resources, time, and commitment to make us who we are. It is a luxury often taken for granted and I challenge you to help us spread that same message of belief to the millions of children in South Sudan who desperately need it.
Thank you for your support and time!
Dau D Jok