Former 'Lost Boy of Sudan' visits Fallston schools to discuss Water for South Sudan

Sep. 20—Salva Dut, former "Lost Boy of Sudan" and founder of the international nonprofit Water for South Sudan, was a featured speaker Sept. 15 at an assembly at Fallston High School.

Students from the eighth-grade class at Fallston Middle School and the ninth-grade class at the high school attended the assembly. A panel discussion was held with freshmen and seniors who have participated in previous service projects with the organization.

"It touched my heart to see that kids are stepping out of their comfort zone and have a passion for helping other people," Dut said.

Dut's life is the subject of the bestselling novel, "A Long Walk to Water," written by Newbury Award-winner Linda Sue Park. Dat met with the eighth-grade class at Fallston Middle School, which is currently reading the book.

"A Long Walk to Water" is based on the true story of Dut, one of some 3,800 Sudanese "Lost Boys" airlifted to the United States beginning in the mid 1990s. Born in Sudan, Dut was separated from his family by war at age 11 and forced to travel on foot through hundreds of miles of hostile territory. As the book recounts, he survived starvation, animal attacks and disease, and ultimately lead a group of about 150 boys to safety in Kenya.

Fallston Middle School teacher Jennifer Brown as well as students and faculty from both the middle and high school organized an event to raise money for Water for South Sudan's annual Iron Giraffe Challenge contest. Schools that raise $1,000 or more are automatically entered to win a visit from Dut.

Fallston students won the challenge's grand prize, which earned them a visit from Dut. Fallston participated in the Iron Giraffe Challenge in 2019 and 2022.

Fallston Middle School has raised $20,300 since 2018, said Elissa Rowley, development and communications coordinator for Water for South Sudan.

Dut was eventually resettled with a family in upstate New York. He learned English and graduated from college.

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According to the Water for South Sudan website, when Dut learned that his father was still alive and suffering with disease caused by waterborne parasites, he was inspired to help both his father and his country. He established a foundation in South Sudan that installs deep-water wells in remote villages in dire need of clean water.

The nonprofit also repairs and rehabilitates older wells, provides hygiene education in every village it serves and constructs school latrines and water storage and distribution systems.

"It's crazy because I read this book, and I never got to meet the actual storyteller until just now, "said student Shaianne Montamvault. "It's great to see that he's appreciative of everything we do because you read a story about somebody and you can't really do anything to help. But, we read the story and we could actually do something about it."

During the visit to Fallston, Dut talked about the nonprofit, which has now drilled more than 570 wells in South Sudan since 2005. He shared the life-changing effect of clean water on those who lack it.

"This keeps me going all the time and is why I had to meet with these young people to be able to help people who can not help themselves to clean drinking water," Dut said. "It's a simple as digging a well and water comes out. People enjoy it, and it's very touching. They celebrate and you see people put their hands up in joy. You see the light and spirit of the people change when they get water."