For five years, John Bul Dau walked a thousand miles to escape a country rife with starvation and genocide. His trial did not end, however, once he reached safety.
Tonight, he will stand in the Marshall Student Center and tell that tale of how a Southern Sudanese boy achieved the American dream.
Dau escaped twice from war-torn countries, South Sudan and Ethiopia, in 1987. He fled along with over 20,000 boys displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War that killed 2.5 million.
During the exodus, the boys faced starvation, disease and attacks from soldiers and wild animals. Half of them died before reaching a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Then, a 1991 war forced the remaining 10,000 boys to flee from Ethiopia to a northern Kenyan camp, where the aid workers dubbed the survivors the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
For the next eight years, the International Rescue Committee offered the boys rehabilitation and education. Some learned how to manage a savings account or start their own business.
By 1999, it looked like the boys would not return to Sudan any time soon, as the fighting showed no signs of abating. The United Nations determined reuniting the boys with their families was not in the cards.
The U.S. Department of State agreed with the U.N.’s recommendation to resettle 3,600 of the boys to the U.S.
The lost boys, now men, were moved into apartments across the U.S., where they lived together. Many live together as a family to this day.
A 2006 documentary chronicled the story of three of these men adjusting to life in a first-world country. The documentary was named “God Grew Tired of Us,” a sentence Dau said to rationalize the human suffering he saw.
The film documented their struggle to find a job, eat strange food and adjust to American culture while coping with leaving their country behind.
Dau, who was a focus of the documentary, co-authored his first book that bore the same title of the film. The documentary was a winner at the Sundance Film Festival and Dau’s book won National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers award.
Dau has since written a second book, titled “Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan.”
When Dau isn’t traveling as a motivational speaker, he is working as president of the John Dau Foundation.
His foundation opened the Duk Lost Boys Clinic in his home village. The clinic has given medical care to more than 110,000 patients, including thousands of vaccinations and childbirths.
Dau now lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife and three children.
The lecture, costing $7,850, is part of the University Lecture Series sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement. He is the second speaker this semester, after broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien last month. The third speaker has not been announced.
The lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Marshall Student Center, room 2708.