Linda Sue Park helped Salva Dut share his experience as a “Lost Boy” of Sudan who returned home to build a well for his village.
Salva was eleven years old when he began the journey on foot with thousands of other children who were forced out of their villages after soldiers killed their parents. The violent reality included shootings, being eaten by lions and crocodiles, drowning and being abducted to be child soldiers.
The children traveled through Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They lived in refugee camps for several years. Salva took interest in learning English so an aid worker taught him. Eventually as a young man, Salva was one of the group permitted to come to the United States.
After a few years in the United States, Salva received word that his father was still alive but very ill due to not having clean water. Salva began his dream of being reunited with his father and finding a way to solve the water problem. With help from many people organizing and raising funds, his dream came true.
Salva returned home and was reunited with his father. He was told his mother was still alive but it was too dangerous to travel to where she was. He only got to see his father because he was in a hospital.
Salva put together a team and drilled a well in the village. His term was that no one could be refused water. The village people had to come together for the benefit of all. Later, he began drilling wells in other villages.
The ending brought the fictional part of the story together with his true story. The fictional story was about a young Nuer girl named Nya about twenty years later who benefitted from the new well. She noticed that the man who gave them the clean water did not have tribal markings on his forehead. She assumed he was from her tribe. She asked someone and was told he was Dinka, not Nuer. She wondered why he would help them. She got up the courage to approach him and said, “Thank you for bringing us the water.”
Girls were now able to attend school because they no longer had to walk for water.
This story is precious to me because of the Sudanese young adults in my life. One is my friend and his family. The other is my daughter in law. My friend is Dinka and my daughter-in-law is Nuer. I love them both.
My friend’s dream is to build a school building for the children in his village. I want to help him. We will need a lot of help. I’m sure each one of the “Lost Boys” have dreams. Although telling their stories is painful, one by one, we can help them build a brighter future for the next generation.