After fourth-graders at Coltrane-Webb STEM Magnet School read Linda Sue Park’s “A Long Walk To Water,” they wrote a letter to the main character.The nonfiction book is based on the life of Salva Dut, one of nearly 4,000 Lost Boys of Sudan airlifted to the United States in the mid-1990s. Because of their letter, Dut invited students and staff to participate in a virtual learning experience that promoted global awareness. Coltrane-Webb was the only school in the state – and the only elementary school in the country – to participate in a March 5 video conference call with Dut. Eight middle schools along the East Coast also participated.A world apartThe video conference was meant to help spread awareness about the hardships faced by the people of Sudan. Young readers also learned more about Dut’s efforts firsthand.Dut was separated from his family in the mid-1980s, during the country’s civil war. He had to walk hundreds of miles through hostile territory. He managed to survive starvation, animal attacks and disease. Dut eventually moved to upstate New York, where he learned English, attended college and established a foundation that installs deep-water wells in remote villages of South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest regions. The story of Dut’s life is told side-by-side with the story of Nya, a young girl who lives in one of those villages. Roughly 75 students and staff at Coltrane Webb were part of the interactive video conference, and four students asked questions. Dut said he was impressed by Prince Ford’s question: “Did your decision to help the Nuer people … have any impact on the longstanding war between the Dinka and Nuer tribes?”In his response, Dut encouraged students to move forward and get along with all people. He ended by stressing “Education is the key to life.”Minette Finney-Lewis, a fourth-grade teacher at Coltrane-Webb, said the event brought the story to life for the students. “One impact of both the story and the video conference was the ability of the students to talk with and listen to a person that they read about. ...,” she said. “It … was a totally new experience for these children, many who have never been out of North Carolina.”‘The Lost Boys’Civil war broke out in Sudan in 1985. Millions died and millions more fled for their lives to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and other neighboring countries. After two decades of war, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005. A truce was declared, and the semi-autonomous Government of South Sudan was established. On July 9, 2011 the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its independence, becoming the newest nation on earth.Among those who fled were thousands of children – mostly boys, some as young as 5. They became known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” Dut, an 11-year-old from southwest Sudan, fled to Ethiopia. As a teenager, he helped lead 1,500 Lost Boys hundreds of miles through the southern Sudan desert to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.In 2003, Dut founded Water for South Sudan Inc., a nonprofit based in Rochester, N.Y., and South Sudan. The foundation installs deep-water wells in remote villages of South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest regions. Salva holds dual citizenship as an American and a South Sudanese. During his travels to the U.S. and other countries, he works to educate people about South Sudan and helps raise money for Water for South Sudan.
Friday, Mar. 15, 2013
Students hear from former Sudanese refugee
"A Long Walk to Water," by Linda Sue Park, is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of nearly 4,000 Lost Boys of Sudan airlifted to the United States in the mid-1990s.
Coltrane Webb was the only school from the state to participate in a March 5th video conference call with Salva Dut, a main character in Linda Sue Park’s “A Long Walk To Water.” COURTESY OF COLTRANE WEBB