Daniel Majok Gai – Executive Director
I feel great working as PESS South Sudan Executive Director; it is empowering both me and the community. I’m extremely proud of what I’m doing and it’s benefits to the South Sudanese. I realize I am a role model for those whom I work with in the villages. Many of the International NGO’s hire only European or Americans at top Director positions; not PESS.
Daniel Majok Gai, PESS Executive Director
Daniel came to the United States in 2001 as a twenty-year-old refugee. At the age of six, he had escaped into the bush alone when a northern militia attacked his southern Sudanese village. He spent the next fourteen years in camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, having trekked hundreds of miles, first into Ethiopia, and then, when the “Lost Boys” were driven out of that region, to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Daniel received his high school certificate in Kakuma, where he learned under a tree, without pens or paper. Hear his story on NPR
Daniel graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver with a B.A. in Psychology. At UCD, he won the 2010 Rosa Park Diversity Student Award and worked as a Student Advocate at the Educational Opportunity Program. He became a United States citizen in 2007. As part of the PESS team traveling to Jonglei in 2008, Daniel was reunited with his family in the village of Pagook. In Pagook, he met with his village elders to negotiate PESS’s third school site (Tong Pagook Primary); assisted with the teacher training and financial literacy programs; and provided training to PESS’s field coordinator.
Daniel was appointed as PESS South Sudan Director in 2011, and moved back to Jonglei to work on the ground developing and implementing PESS’s leadership and educational programs. He lives in Bor, the capitol of Jonglei with his wife Yom and their son and daughter.
In June 2015, Daniel became PESS Executive Director. As PESS Executive Director, he will continue his direct work with Jonglei villages. He will also continue in his role as community representative to the Jonglei State Ministry of Education. In this capacity, Daniel holds once or twice monthly meetings with international NGO field representatives, thus creating a PESS connection globally. He will continue to establish the presence of PESS in South Sudan by opening a PESS office in Bor during 2016.
Board of Directors/Advisory Board
Dr. Mary Shippy – Board Chair
Mary has 30 years of experience in the field of leadership development and organizational transition, with a particular emphasis on multicultural leadership development. She is Managing Partner of Align Leadership, LLC. Mary volunteers as an organizational consultant for a number of non-profits. She traveled with Daniel to South Sudan in 2008.
Ray Stranske – Treasurer
Ray has worked in the Denver non-profit community development sector for over 30 years and for 26 years was Executive Director of Hope Communities. Ray was born in Khartoum, Sudan and lived in Sudan and other African countries until he was 14. Ray traveled with the PESS team to South Sudan in 2007.
Lee Ann Huntington – Secretary
Lee Ann is an attorney licensed in Colorado and California. Her legal practice includes over 20 years litigation experience as a partner in a prominent San Francisco law firm. She is an experienced mediator, and volunteers and teaches in various educational and legal areas. Lee Ann is the community forester for George Washington High School in Denver, where she leads students in tree planting and other horticultural activities. She traveled to South Sudan with Daniel and the PESS team in 2011.
Jim Broyles – Board Member & Accounting Manager
Jim is a small business owner who has enjoyed a diverse career. His most memorable work was as a management consultant working with Colorado nonprofits to strengthen their skills in financial management and information technology. He has also worked as a software developer in a rapidly growing technology company and most recently built a successful online agency in the international travel business. Jim has been an active volunteer with Project Education South Sudan since its founding over a decade ago.
Joyce Culwell – Board Member and Volunteer Coordinator
Joyce is a musician and music teacher. During twenty-three years of providing music education in the Denver area, Joyce has coordinated 400 volunteers and written grants to benefit music education. Joyce first became a board member of PESS when she began teaching music classes to the Lost Boys. Her passion for education in underdeveloped countries was kindled when she went to South Sudan in 2008 to train teachers.
Ngor Abiar – Board Member and Ambassador
Ngor is South Sudanese and one of Daniel’s brothers. He recently graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver with a degree in Environmental Engineering and is pursuing a master’s degree. Ngor keeps PESS in tune with the Sudanese community in Denver and is an Ambassador for PESS, providing the South Sudanese perspective in speaking and community outreach.
Rachel Bush – Board Member
Rachel studied business and political science in college because she saw the connection between lean business practices and successful non-profits. With a deep appreciation for education, she taught in New Orleans as a Teach for America Corp member, where she was nominated for the Sue Lehmann award. Currently working in marketing for a successful for-profit organization, Rachel is able to empower PESS with startup best practices and project development experience within an educational context.
Meera Meyer – Board Member
Meera previously worked with PESS as the Administrative Assistant and as a volunteer while attending graduate school at the University of Denver. Her undergraduate economics thesis focused on education and she has always believed that education is the primary building block for a strong foundation and a successful future. She currently works in private wealth management, with an emphasis on socially responsible and impact investing; this allows her to observe and translate the success of sustainable not-for-profit organizations to PESS.