Banaa: the Sudan Educational Empowerment Network identifies talented young Sudanese affected by atrocities and committed to building lasting peace in their country. The program provides these emerging leaders a four-year US undergraduate education, apprenticeships with global NGO leaders, and jobs in conflict resolution and sustainable development back in Sudan.
How does Banaa Work?
Banaa’s specialized application process recruits the brightest young people from Sudan’s most vulnerable communities. We maintain a database of highly qualified candidates who demonstrate:
- Clear understanding of the basic causes of conflict in their communities
- Outstanding dedication to building peace and the desire to acquire critical skill sets
- Sufficient academic preparedness to excel in a rigorous college setting
Candidates are assessed by our Board of Advisors and forwarded to college admissions officers for special review.
Banaa also works with NGO partners to secure mentorships, development and conflict resolution training, summer internships in New York and Washington DC, and employment in Sudan upon completion of the program.
Why Sudan? Why Scholarships?
Sudan has been at war for 40 of its 52 years as an independent state. The clearest cause of this violence is not racism but regional disparities in income, education, infrastructure, and political power. While Khartoum, the capital area, grows at a rate of 12% per year, peripheral regions are mired in a state of poverty and neglect that inspires insurrection and feeds cycles of violence.
The Sudanese Diaspora
- Banaa applies the principle of equitable representation reflexively: in the very task of empowering Sudanese citizens, Banaa relies on the Sudanese Diaspora for leadership and guidance.
- The Diaspora offers a wealth of opportunities during the Banaa scholar’s course of study for support and encouragement.
- Banaa chapters each forge ties to the local Sudanese Diaspora community
- There are many cultural support groups that provide key services for refugee and immigrant communities around the country. These organizations will work with Banaa and the Sudanese Diaspora to support the Banaa scholars.
The Banaa Board of Advisors
Former national security advisor to Vice President Al Gore, Research Professor of International Affairs (George Washignton University) and Distinguished Research Fellow (National Defense University). A former Foreign Service Officer and arms-control expert, Fuerth served on the Principals’ Committee of the National Security Council and National Economic Council during the Clinton Administration. He is Founder and Director the Project on Forward Engagement, which aims to integrate long-range planning techniques into the US and global governance. Website: www.forwardengagement.org
Former Ambassador to Ethiopia, Director for East African Affairs at U.S. Department of State, Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Khartoum. Dr. Shinn is a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs. He blogs on Horn of Africa issues at http://davidshinn.blogspot.com.
Robert Paul Churchill
Evan Faber co-founded Banaa in 2006 and served as Acting Director of the program from 2008-12. He now chair’s the board of advisors for Banaa. He received his MA in International Science and Technology Policy from the George Washington University.
Eve is a Senior Contracts Administrator for AgustaWestland dealing with government agency and foreign sales. She has worked many years with Banaa and runs several workshops at our annual Summer Summit.
Jimmy is the president and co-founder of Voices for Sudan, a coalition of organizations dedicated to helping Sudan. He has helped raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. He played a key role in passing the U.S. Sudan Peace Act and bringing the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, reinvigorating the peace talks.
Dr. Miller’s fourteen years of academic experience include positions at the University of Maryland, College Park, and teaching adult learners at Prince George’s Community College, prior to joining GWU’s faculty four years ago. Dr. Miller also brings to the academic setting nine years of private consulting experience, focused on communication skills training in business, health care, and non-profit organizations. She runs a workshop on intercultural communication for Banaa’s annual Summer Summit.
Banaa Summer Summit
In addition to the running the Banaa Scholarship, the Banaa Team holds an annual Summer Summit. We bring all of the current Banaa Scholars together in Washington, DC for a week of skill-building workshops, bonding, and preparation for the year to come. Locally based organizations such as the Enough Project, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the US Institute for Peace hold workshops during the summit in addition to those led by GW Faculty. The Summit is also one of the few times that the Banaa Team and the Scholars from both the UofR and GWU get to spend time together.
The Summit is entirely funded by the fundraising efforts of our small team of student leaders. Please consider supporting our annual Summit by making a contribution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Banaa.org? What does “Banaa” mean?
Banaa (ba nä’) is an Arabic word meaning “to build, found, or create.” The organization was founded in 2007 by a group of undergraduate students at the George Washington University (GWU) with the goal of “building” a cadre of future Sudanese leaders—peacebuilders from the area’s most marginalized regions who have experienced the horrors of war and understand the nuances of conflict—and provide them with the tools to become active global citizens and promote long-lasting peace and economic development.
Banaa.org (Banaa) remains a student-run organization based at the George Washington University, with Banaa scholars attending both GWU and the University of Rochester. Supported by full scholarships and student leaders on their college campuses, Banaa scholars receive expert training in leadership and conflict resolution. Empowered with a college education, practical skills, and international connections, they return home to promote peace and development in Sudan and South Sudan. With an ongoing mission to help bring harmony and prosperity to the region, Banaa intends to empower a network of fifty peacebuilders over the coming decade.
How does Banaa find qualified students?
Banaa distributes application materials to officials with international aid agencies operating in Sudan as well as members of the Sudanese-American Diaspora. These partners share materials with promising Sudanese young people who have completed secondary schooling and worked as local employees with development and relief organizations. The application itself is based on the Common Application used by over 400 colleges and universities but specifically probes candidates on their commitment to return home to work in conflict-resolution and sustainable development.
Who is eligible to be a Banaa Scholar?
Any North or South Sudanese national under the age of 26, who (1) has been personally affected by conflict, (2) has completed secondary education, (3) has a demonstrated track record working toward peace and development, and (4) is willing to commit to return home to work in public service, is eligible to apply become a Banaa Scholar.
Why is Banaa just for Sudan? Can non-Sudanese apply?
Banaa aims to serve aspiring leaders from conflict zones around the world. But—given the program’s limited resources and Sudan’s urgent need for both technical experts and visionary leaders—Sudan remains the focal point for the foreseeable future.
How can young Banaa graduates be effective in promoting peace?
Banaa Scholars work closely with academic and professional mentors to tailor their experience toward acquiring vital skills for promoting institutional and economic development in Sudan. A returning scholar may, for example, work as an advisor in South Sudan’s recently-created Justice Ministry or a civil engineer for an infrastructure-development nonprofit in a remote region with few paved roads.
Why not invest in more immediate forms of relief for the people of Sudan?
Banaa is designed as a vital complement rather than a substitute for emergency relief and short-term development assistance. By bolstering Sudan’s most vital resource—its human capital—the program works to eliminate the persistent need for development assistance. Banaa Scholarships are a strategic investment for peace and prosperity.
Does Banaa have any political agendas or affiliations?
No. Banaa is an independent initiative launched and managed by student volunteers based at the George Washington University. Banaa scholars receive practical training and liberal arts education but are expected to form their own perspectives on Sudanese and international politics.
Are there restrictions on the curricula of the students?
Scholars are encouraged to pursue majors that serve, in some capacity, conflict resolution or institutional and economic development. Our first priority is that Scholars leave Banaa with skills that will enable them to effect change within Sudan. Specific areas of study could include (but are not limited to): International Affairs, Engineering, Education, Public Health, Political Science, etc.
Does Banaa support scholarship for post-graduate work? (Masters, Law, Medicine, etc.)
Not yet. Currently, Banaa is focusing its efforts on undergraduate programming. The goal is to provide scholars with the “college experience” as an essential component of their growth.
What if more than one college wants to select the same scholar, how is that decided?
Banaa asks each college to tell Banaa which candidates they would be willing to accept, and to rank them in choice order. Banaa then works with all of the admissions offices that are willing to accept scholars to identify where each would be best placed, before acceptance notices are sent.
How has the separation of Sudan into two states, Sudan and South Sudan, affected your program?
We remain committed to empowering young leaders from throughout Sudan and South Sudan to promote peace and sustainable development.
Does Banaa.org offer any more opportunities for Sudanese, outside of the Banaa Scholarship for Undergraduate School?
Unfortunately we only offer the Banaa Scholarship. However, we post a list of other similar opportunities from friends of Banaa on our website under the tab “More Opportunities,” that we encourage you to browse.
How can I get involved?
Visit the Banaa Blog post “How YOU Can Get Involved!” for a list of ways you can help us make the Banaa Scholarship bigger and better. To apply for the Banaa Scholarship or to bring a Banaa Scholar to your school, visit the following links on our menu: “Apply To Be A Banaa Scholar” and “Bring A Banaa Scholar To Your Campus.”