New Development Director, Same Mission

Wendi Dwyer is aware of the role that adult education plays in the health of a family and the stability of a community.  She founded Literacy at the Well, an NGO that is raising the literacy rate in South Sudan.

Only three in ten South Sudanese men, and one in ten women, can read and write. Illiteracy has made it possible for corruption, human trafficking and violent tribal conflicts to flourish, and has made it impossible for citizens to live free, safe and healthy lives.

South Sudanese women and girls walk up to three miles each day to reach a well and wait in long up to 4 hours to fill their containers with safe water for their families.  Then, they make the long walk home carrying forty pounds of water on their heads. This leaves little time for them to go to school. Literacy at the Well trains teachers how to turn the waiting time into an opportunity to learn how to read and write, and speak English- the new official language of their recently independent nation.

Women who learn at Literacy at the Well share what they learn with their families and neighbors. When the literacy rate rises in a community, human traffickers are less likely to strike. Women and girls who are able to read documents, and advocate for themselves to authorities are less attractive to these modern-day slave traders.

Wendi credits her childhood in Madison for leading her to work in partnership with refugees from South Sudan to free people from the bondage of illiteracy. To create partnerships and raise support she has presented at the UN, UNESCO and the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, as well as other global forums. When Literacy at the Well achieved its goal of becoming a sustainable in-country program, she was able to begin the next chapter of her life.

In January 2018, Wendi moved back to Madison. She recently became the development director at Literacy Network of Dane County. This is what she has to say about her new role, “Anywhere parents are unable to communicate and access information on their own, their families are left vulnerable and dependent on others. Both Literacy Network and Literacy at the Well address the unique needs of adult learners so they can gain skills to improve their family’s quality of life, and to strengthen their community. Working to forward the mission of Literacy Network, it is an excellent investment in my hometown.”