June 30, 2020

From Bullets to Books: One Washington Mandela Fellow’s Work Towards Peace

In war-stricken South Sudan, education is not always easily accessible. Jok Abraham Thon, an alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program and winner of the 2019 Ron Kovac Peace Prize, is determined to rewrite that story -- and he's getting support from fellow exchange alumni.

In 2017, Thon began his campaign of changing minds through “Bullets to Books” - an effort to refocus local youth on opportunities for education as a path towards a brighter future, and ultimately, peace. Thon founded the Promised Land Secondary School as part of his Youth for Peace through Education initiative. The school, just outside of Juba, makes the best of limited resources to provide educational opportunity.

Now, Thon’s work and the Promised Land Secondary School are the subject of the award-winning documentary film, BULLETS TO BOOKS. BULLETS TO BOOKS was produced by The Jüdische Kulturbund Project, with support of the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan; the U.S. Department of State’s Arts Envoy Program; and, IREX's Reciprocal Exchange Program. Arts Envoy Gail Prensky and her team on The Jüdische Kulturbund Project were inspired by Jok. Prensky says their goal is to help Jok fulfil his mission.

BULLETS TO BOOKS is the winner of the Ron Kovic Peace Prize, Best Short in the Humanitarian category, Best Music, and My Hero Prize. The film also received best short documentary film at the Big Apple Film Festival in 2020. In addition, it has also been selected for screening at the Global Impact Film Festival, the Manhattan Film Festival, and the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival.

Thon believes his work is far from over. “Nothing is impossible. Something done by a human being can be changed by a human being. I can still make something,” he says in the trailer for the documentary.

Thon continues to speak out about the importance of, and connection between education, peace, and disarmament. He was recently a featured presenter on “The Disarmament Emergency” online panel.

We look forward to hearing more about the impact of Thon’s work, and how the BULLETS TO BOOKS documentary by exchange alumni Gail and her team is helping Thon with his mission in South Sudan.