Bringing Experiential Learning to Youth in South Sudan

Group of men in white shirts and red pants.

South Sudan's youth are future innovators, leaders, and problem solvers. Yet without education and relevant experience, young people will continue to be ignored and excluded, and communities and ecosystems will continue to suffer.

Project context

For youth in South Sudan, life is beyond difficult. More than 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30, with the world’s highest proportion of out-of-school children and 72 percent of primary-aged children out of school (UNICEF, 2017). Only 48 percent of South Sudan’s youth are literate (World Bank, 2020). Violence, natural disasters, and financial barriers prevent children and youth from completing their education.

While the conditions are bleak, the potential is great. South Sudan’s youth are its future innovators, leaders and problem solvers. Yet without education and  relevant experience, young people will continue to be ignored and excluded, and communities and ecosystems will continue to suffer.  While these current conditions are catastrophic, they suggest a clear path forward; providing youth with education and relevant experiences, leveraging their collective potential for the benefit of communities, ecosystems and the future of the country.

This is the vision of Abukloi Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Rumbek that is educating a new generation of peaceful leaders for South Sudan. Abukloi was founded by Angelo Maker, one of the 3,000 orphans called the Lost Boys of Sudan who fled the Civil War in 1983 that claimed over two million lives, walking 1,000 miles to nearby Kenya in order to escape the violence. Today Abukloi includes a High school serving 667 students and offers programs focusing on economic and community development,  health and agricultural practices.

While the number of schools in Rumbek and other parts of South Sudan is increasing, education alone is not enough. Even with access to schooling, Abukloi youth lack experiences that can cultivate valuable skills and connections, and opportunities to support themselves and their families. Experiential Learning does not exist in South Sudan, and youth have no access to projects, research opportunities, or internships, and no chance to collaborate or get support from mentors or coaches.

Through this SDG Project Challenge, Abukloi seeks to create a bridge between secondary education and the potential of youth to innovate and make change. As Abukloi youth embark on their own Project Challenges, they will partner with SUNY students for collaboration and support. We hope that these efforts will be mutually beneficial and will create a foundation for scaling this model to reach youth and their communities throughout South Sudan and beyond. 

Project opportunities

Foundational efforts to introduce Experiential learning to Abukloi youth are currently underway. Through collaborating with Youth-Leader, another ELN partner featured in the SDG Project Challenges, we are  engaging in a self-study towards identifying priority challenges and assets (“trash and treasures”) along with priority vocational interests on which to build. These efforts will inform opportunities for SUNY student engagement related to the project categories listed below. Please indicate preference and any specific skills or experience in your letter/email of inquiry.

  1. Community innovation models: research and sharing

Focusing on priorities revealed in the Abukloi self-study, SUNY students will research related community innovation models, documenting and sharing in ways that  are accessible to South Sudan youth. This may include interviews, podcasts, reports, or other formats to be identified through collaboration. Students will present their research and  recommendations for possible action and development. 

        2. Jobs and educational pathways: research and sharing

Based on priorities revealed through self-assessment, SUNY students will research related jobs and educational pathways along with scholarships, fellowships and other resources available to South Sudan students. They will work to connect Abukloi youth with information and stories that are accessible and compelling with a focus on increasing access and creating pathways to self-sufficiency and civic contributions.

        3. Digital content creation: Youth-Leader poster, magazine and resources

SUNY students can contribute digital media and art to evolving Youth-Leader publications focused on Africa and South Sudan specifically. This may include writing articles, conducting interviews, developing content or supporting related fundraising activities with the goal of boosting and supporting humanitarian and environmental activities.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Variable
Start time Fall, Spring, Summer
Level of collaboration Variable
Benefits Digital Badge
Who is eligible Students of all backgrounds and majors invited to apply

Core partners

Project mentor

Mara Huber

Associate Dean, Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning; Director, Experiential Learning Network

127 Capen Hall

Phone: (716) 829-2834


SUNY SDG Project Challenge

This project is for students interested in the SUNY SDG Project Challenge.

Express Interest

  1. Email ELN with letter of interest at to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to send this email)
  2. After you send your email expressing your interest, click the button to schedule a meeting to discuss the project. (Please be sure to include your letter of interest when scheduling the event)

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 


UNSDG, ELN, SUNY, Project Challenge, IITG