Former South Sudanese child soldier Honored with Marsha Hanen Award by Canadian University

October 21, 2014 (NSV)David Mabior Atem, Academic Advisor/Immigrant Access Advisor, has been recognized with Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence by the University of Winnipeg in Canada for his great role in “creating community awareness.” Atem, a passionate advocate for peace and education, received the award on Friday, October 17, 2014, at the 2014 Autumn Convocation along with two other faculty members.

“We have incredibly talented and dedicated faculty and staff who go above and beyond to inspire and nurture students. In fact, it is one of the most notable characteristics of life at The University of Winnipeg,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg. “On behalf of the University community, I offer sincere congratulations to our award recipients.”

According to a brief statement posted on the University’s web page prior to the Convocation, Mr. Atem’s journey to Canada was not without hardships.

“The challenges Atem has faced seem unimaginable,” the statement read. “A former South Sudanese child soldier, Atem arrived in Canada as a war refugee and enrolled at UWinnipeg to pursue a Bachelor of Arts. He completed his studies in 2007, and is now a tireless Academic Advisor/Immigrant Access Advisor at UWinnipeg,” it added.

“He is known among students for his empathy and problem-solving skills, which help new students adjust to university. Atem believes that creating an “open door policy” is an effective way to break down barriers for newcomers and help them adjust to the post-secondary environment.”

Below is the full biography for Mr. Atem.

Former South Sudanese Child Soldier Bestowed Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness – University of Winnipeg’s Fall Convocation, Canada

David Mabior Atem Kuir’s Professional and Educational Profile (4-yr BA’07 & ACPPA’11): Atem currently works as an Academic Advisor/Immigrant Access Advisor in the Academic Advising Office at The University of Winnipeg. Atem is an exemplary of what hard work, dedication and staying focused can achieve amidst all the human frailties and odds against success. Prior to this position, upon graduating in 2007, he briefly worked for Service Canada, a federal government department.


As an Academic Advisor, he tirelessly and empathetically helps students adjust to post-secondary education. He diligently helps with problem-solving and trust-building with students to open up communications; and shares available resources internally and externally for students’ successes. Current and prospective students come with academic and non-academic issues that are sometimes very intricate and complex and that can and do adversely affect their studies. These include, but are not limited to, student loans, immigration issues, housing, culture shock and language barriers, childcare, family responsibilities, financial hardships, peer pressure and many others. All these issues require ‘demonstrated integrity’ through self-confidence, humility, good listening, patience, and respect for cultures, gender justice and critical thinking to help these students accomplish their goals here as students. These qualities are constantly exhibited by Atem in the execution of his duties. Being an exemplary of hard work, dedication and honesty, he often gives up his lunchtime to accommodate students that cannot attend regular appointments due to work, family issues and other commitments. Creating an “open door policy” is an effective way to break down barriers for newcomers struggling to navigate the post-secondary institutional environment. As part of the university community, each of us comes with unique values and strengths in terms of experiences, knowledge and cultural understanding that collectively and collaboratively put our efforts together for the successes of the students.


In 2007, Atem was commissioned by the Former Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, and Former President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Winnipeg, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, to undertake an educational assessment among African communities in Manitoba Inc. (ACOMI).He carried out this task successfully, giving birth to scholarships for students of African descent joining UWinnipeg’s Collegiate and University. This was a first of its kind for African communities in Manitoba, easing the financial burden of, and improving access to post-secondary education for individuals of African descent. This exercise ultimately led to the founding of the African communities’ educational bursary; Atem’s initiative that was incorporated into UW’s Opportunity Fund in 2008.


Thus, Atem’s idea and drive for bringing the university to communities has been successfully implemented and has led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The University of Winnipeg and ACOMI. The ten African students sponsored by The University of Winnipeg in 2007/2008 represented a huge contribution to the African communities in Manitoba, as well as Africa. Therefore, Atem is the pioneer and accredited for the ACOMI-Bursary opened to all Africans regardless of age, gender, nationality, and religion. Initiating a bursary program was an ideal endeavor to promote access to education, human right values; and peace education, good governance and civic education which are essential to University Community.


Other Notable Accomplishments:


Before migrating to Canada, Atem worked extensively and successfully for various international organizations. One of these was Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Kakuma, Kenya, a huge and popular refugee camp, from 1995-1997. He was tasked with needs assessments, which encompassed assessing, managing, directing, prioritizing and ensuring distribution of non-food items in the refugee camp. Atem was also employed at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in Kakuma, Kenya, from 1998-2001, Department of Case Management partly funded and administered by the UNHCR Community Services. He held distinctive responsibilities for managing strategic and durable solutions (resettlement) in the camp that hosted more than 90,000 refugees from seven countries: Somali, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. In this capacity, he helped to devise, roll out and manage a durable solution in general and specifically for an unaccompanied minor group known today around the world as the Lost Boys and Girls of South Sudan/Sudan. One of his other core responsibilities was to receive and provide tour guides to visitors from different organizations that were sponsoring the Lost Boys & Girls of South Sudan/Sudan to United States of America from 1998-2001. In these roles he achieved strong reference letters when departing.


Being patriotic, in conjunction with his demanding job and delicate family responsibilities, he has managed, here in Canada, specifically in UWinnipeg, to promote and champion a platform for solutions to South Sudan’s political problems. He is the founder and Chair of The Dialogue on South Sudan forum that aims at building capacity among scholars, researchers, activists, politicians and policy makers toward supporting South Sudan, the world’s newest country. He is also Co-founder for The Eyes on Sudan: Working for Peace from 2010 to present. Thus, he has actively and extensively been engaged in South Sudan political issues through the University of Winnipeg’s Global College.


Also, Atem is a member of Winnipeg Rotary serving under the world service committee. He and other committee members were to go to South Sudan for educational assessment in December or March 2014 but both trips were postponed due to political instability in the country.


Sample of writings; letters, press releases, speeches and articles contributed on different topics and published in various websites:

  • “South Sudanese in Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba Province, are Celebrating a Birth of their New Nation South Sudan: On July 9” 2011;

  • Policy Document: Tapping and Connecting Knowledge and Skills of South Sudanese-Diasporas to their Home Country” 2011;

  • Start Peace and Reconciliation at the Grassroots Level: An open letter to H. E. Dr. Riek Machar” 2013;

  • South Sudan’s One Year Anniversary and What it Means to Winnipeggers and Canada at large2012;

  • “A copy of letter sent to The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, titled: Need for Immediate Intervention Following South Sudan referendum in 2011” 2011;

  • “Speech by Mr David Mabior Atem on Peace Building in South Sudan” 2011;

  • “Remembering May 16th as a historic day for South Sudan” 2013;

  • Expedite National Dialogue to Prevent Full Scale Civil War:An Open Letter To: H.E. First Lt. General and President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit” 2013;

  • “Has Ukraine, Crimea Proxy War Eclipsed South Sudan Crisis?” 2014;

  • “Press Release for Dialogue on South Sudan in Canada to Feature Dr. Luka Biong Deng” 2014;


Organization Leadership – Samples

    • Charged with durable solutions under UNHCR Community Service in Kakuma, Refugee Camp, in Kenya, as Case Management officer, and LWF Social Services (1998-2001)
    • Former member for The Board of Directors in the Family Dynamics (2008-2013)
    • Member of The Manitoba Advising Professional (MAP)
    • Founder (2011) and Chair for The Dialogue on South Sudan/Sudan
    • Co-founder of a forum (2010) for The Eyes on Sudan: Working for Peace
    • Co-founder of the Management Consulting Firm: The Cutting Edge Associates International (CEAI, 2012)
    • Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis of both public and private institutions
  • Liaised with various government institutions particularly Canadian Ministry for Foreign Affairs for political solution, South Sudan’s Desk


Recognition – Samples

    • Award for outstanding for valuable contributions in South Sudanese community in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (2007)
  • Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness (2014)


The University of Winnipeg was honoured to present David Mabior Atem Kuir with the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness, for his continued work, good governance/leadership and commitment as a peace ambassador on our campus, province and beyond. He has made remarkable contributions to his alma mater and to the broader community.


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