Nyau Arop, a 40-year-old mother of seven children, first arrived in Malakal, South Sudan, with her husband in 1985. They moved to the area so that her husband could take a new job.
"I had to follow [him] because I did not have a source of income," Nyau told Amor, a literacy trainer with the Diocese of Malakal, a Five Talents partner. "I was married while young and I could not support myself financially. I could not get a job or start a business because I could not read and write."
Nyau's story is hardly unusual for women from poor families. Before South Sudan formally declared its independence from the north on July 9, the country had suffered through more than two decades of civil war and tribal violence that had stolen away many citizens' opportunity for education. "It was because of the instability that [we had to] delay our education – not because of our unwillingness [to learn]."
For years after moving to Malakal, Nyau struggled to jump-start her career. She recalled standing before groups of educated people in her new community and feeling intimidated. She began to feel that her lack of education would always prevent her from getting a job.
But then she heard from a friend about the Literacy and Financial Education Program (LFEP) offered by Five Talents and the Diocese of Malakal and decided to join. Ever since, she has been drinking from this well of unprecedented opportunity. "I am really hungry for this milk (education) and am happy someone has given me the opportunity," she said.
Nyau, pictured here, joined the program in November of 2010 and is now well on her way to building a stronger foundation upon which she can establish a career.
"I am now...able to count 1,2,3.... and do simple math, like plus and minus – and, most important, write my name," she said. "Also, I can read and write [my] ABCs. And if given time, I believe I will be able to read and write my mother tongue as well. Who knows? I may [eventually] be able to read and write English also, which is becoming our official language in South Sudan."
Nyau is so excited about the program that she can't help but tell her friends, too.
"Now that peace is prevailing and this program is [growing], I would like to call upon every one, young or [old], to embrace this opportunity. Because what I have seen is good."
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