From SUDAN to NYC: Emmanuel Jal and the Power of Generosity

Emmanuel Jal is a former child-soldier from South-Sudan, who is using Rap music to globally raise awareness about the destiny of war children. He has founded the organization gua Africa to create peace for kids, many of them former child soldiers; to build schools, and much more.

Currently being in New York for the Tenth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I was lucky to have the opportunity to also meet Emmanuel for his performance and the sharing of a few thoughts on another event in the “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, …”:

The Event started with an introductory video on the work of the Africa Yoga Project, which is an initiative by Paige, a young and highly dedicated woman from NY:

It all starts with one commitment: first thing to say, is “Yes”. All the people you are meeting tonight are examples of someone having said “yes”. […] Today, we have 42 previously unemployed Kenyan teachers instructing underprivileged people in and around Nairobi. […]”

To see more of the AYP just click here.

Clive is from Australia and the initiator of the Yoga Aid Challenge. He said:

We have just been to Tokyo in Japan a week ago, to meet the yoga community there with 700 people. We raised over US$ 30.000 for the Yoga Aid Project.

It is all about the act of giving and facilitating – giving is a very rewarding thing; Not only for the people on the receiving end, but also for yourself.

During the 1st weekend of October all over the US, the Yoga community will be supplying funds for the Africa Yoga Project. Follow up with and contact Yoga Aid to spread the word.

The collaboration with Emmanuel Jal and AYP started with a quick email exchange, Paige recalls:

I explained to him in that e-mail all about the Yoga Project, but all he replied was in one sentence: “Yoga is a devil’s worship. I’m not coming.” I just replied ‘no, it’s not – you should come and see for yourself, it’s just about physical practices’. Then he said: “OK, I’ll come.”

Emmanuel comes on stage

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What I found when I came to the U.S. is that people don’t smile. From home, when walking on the street I am used to smile at people right into their face; so that’s what I also did here. They looked at me really strangely as if they thought I was crazy or they might have thought I was begging for money.  The only white people I met smiling like Africans is people practicing Yoga. You guys when you do Yoga, you become African, is that it?

He tells a story about his home village, when he was young.

I must have been around 5 years old. Back home, we use cow dung for many things: after it dried in the sun, you can use it to chase off mosquitos, to construct houses and the hash even to clean your teeth! And if you have seen Sudanese people you know that we have really clean teeth so maybe some of you should try this as well [*smiling*]

There were to small white sheep who were like my best friends when I was a kid. We used to bang our heads together so that my sister was scared I might burst my head… these are some of my humble memories from the past. […]

Another story, not quite as happy this one:

[…] 400 young people, mixed with adults, escaped a place called Juba. The journey was supposed to take 2 months, but it took us 3 months, because of field mines and patrols along the way. On the way, we ran out of food, some people got food poisoning and died, I survived.

We ended up eating snails, frogs, many other small animals, anything we could find… but then we didn’t find any more – it became intense… that was when cannibalism began. My sense had changed, fellows started to smell like food. A friend of mine was dying and I felt like I was ready to eat him the next day… […]

When you are starving and you fall asleep you’re not getting up again. So I was just trying to stay awake. […] In my culture, a black crow stands for bad luck. At some point I found one that had died and I could eat that one so I was lucky. […]

Then I met Emma, my guardian angel, and she disarmed me. And together we founded gua Africa. When Emma came to Sudan and saw the situation, she figured that the only way to help the people in the war-torn region is to educate the women and children. We started with washing people’s cars to raise money in order to build schools.

I saw kids that were taking their lessons under trees, and I promised them to build a school with them. The One meal a Day Challenge started.


I am visiting a lot of schools in Sudan. I trust the kids to correct and not repeat the mistakes of the past. So I tell them that the best investment to yourself is to get yourself educated. But also to go out there to do something, and aim for making them appreciate to go to school to eventually being able to make this world a better place.

… to be continued …

[Johanna Havemann, at the NYC Hilton Hotel, 15 May 2011]

One thought on “From SUDAN to NYC: Emmanuel Jal and the Power of Generosity

  1. Pingback: So what about Tribalism? – Interviews with Juliani and Emmanuel Jal « africanperspectivesblog

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