Christmas Giving Features Two New Charities


Maddie Kurtovich

BSM has two upcoming common baskets this December.

For students struggling with poverty at home, schools are a safe haven that provide food, warmth, safety, and an opportunity to improve their situation in the future. Over winter break, students lose access to many of the benefits school offers.

At BSM, students are taking initiative to help these struggling families. Mckenzie McMoore is a sophomore supporting Nellie Stone elementary school through the Be the Change program. Be the Change, a black-led organization in the Minneapolis area, is focused on giving back to the community. McMoore has a personal connection with Nellie Stone elementary school and the North Minneapolis community. “I kind of grew up on the North Side. I had dance lessons over there and my good family lived over there…I feel like [this common basket] is a good way to give back,” McMoore said.

After the clothes and mittens are donated, McMoore will meet up with other members of Be the Change who organized drives for other needed items (hygiene products, etc) for Nellie Stone. Together, they will give these donations to the elementary school at Nellie Stone’s Winter Wonderland event. “On [December] 14th there is going to be a Winter Wonderland event at Nellie Stone, and we’re going to give them all the jackets and hygiene products… they’re going to have a dance and everything,” McMoore said.

In addition to Mckenzie’s common basket, BSM’s English Department will host another collection on Thursday December 8. The collection will benefit an organization called PASS (Padoc Area Scholars society), founded by Dr. Augustino Mayai who is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Mayai  completed his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison, earning his doctorate in sociology and demography.

Now, in addition to working with PASS, he works for South Sudan’s premier policy think tank (the Sudd Institute) as Managing and Director of Research. Additionally, Mayai  has worked with diplomacy and connected South Sudan to different international organizations. “Dr. Mayai is also a consultant advisor to the United Nations to the World Health Organization. He’s the US Ambassador to the government of South Sudan,” Theology Teacher Peg Hodapp said.

Mayai partnered with former BSM counselor Fran Roby to found the PASS program. PASS gives full-ride scholarships to select students from South Sudan looking to pursue university education. Raising even $500 can sponsor a college student a year in Sudan. “PASS is a product of much hard work and mobilization of support from different Americans…providing that support in order to generate resources for the average young South Sudanese who would not otherwise get the opportunity to go to college,” Mayai said.

The Lost Boys of Sudan refers to a group of over 20,000 boys who were displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The Lost Boys journeyed to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, and some eventually joined resettlement programs in the US. BSM students learn about the Lost Boys as part of the 11th grade Discipleship in Society curriculum.

PASS is a product of much hard work and mobilization of support from different Americans…providing that support in order to generate resources for the average young South Sudanese who would not otherwise get the opportunity to go to college,

— Dr. Augustino Mayai

In a Zoom webinar with BSM students on Wednesday, December 7, Mayai shared his personal experience as a Lost Boy. He described the horrific conditions he faced as a 7 or 8 year old trekking across borders and facing disease. Without consistent access to food and water, the Lost Boys lived on wild berries and drank from stagnant pools–thousands died as a result. Without their parents, the older Lost Boys stepped up to take care of the sick. “If it weren’t for my cousin, I probably wouldn’t have made it. He brought me some pumpkin soup, I drank it, and that became a medicine,” Mayai said.

Mayai was one of the Lost Boys who settled in the United States at 19. He emigrated from South Sudan to Utah, where he struggled with culture shock. He wasn’t used to the cold weather, salty foods, or American traditions. “On October 30, some kids showed up in weird costumes. I got really scared when I saw the kids, and I had to run for cover. I thought I was being attacked,” Mayai said.

After completing college at the University of Utah, Mayai returned to South Sudan before coming back to the US to complete his doctorate. He met his wife, who is also South Sudanese, living in Minnesota. Now, he splits his time between Rochester, Minnesota and South Sudan and enjoys aspects of both cultures. “My favorite American tradition is actually sports…basketball in particular,” Mayai said.

Students interested in supporting one or both of these common baskets are encouraged to bring donation money on Thursday, December 8th and bring in warm clothing through December 13th.