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Imparting Knowledge, Changing Lives and Improving Communities: The Story of Salva Dut

© UNICEF South Sudan/ 2013/Kolok
Salva Dut (L) and Jesse Pleger during a skype call with pupils from Holy Cross Lutheran School

21 February 2013

By: Mercy Kolok

Salva Dut, a former lost boy who is assisting communities in South Sudan by drilling boreholes in disadvantaged communities yesterday mentored seventh graders at Holy Cross Lutheran School in the state of Indiana, USA on water and sanitation activities in South Sudan.  A special video Skype call was arranged through the UNICEF South Sudan office, with the help of UNICEF staff.

The pupils from Holy Cross were curious to know about accessibility of water to communities, the situation in South Sudan, and the needs of communities with regard to water and sanitation. They developed an interest in South Sudan after reading the book ‘A Long Walk to Water,’ in which Dut is featured as the main character. The pupils were excited to chat with the character from their course book and were happy to learn about communities in South Sudan.The pupils as well as the school head teacher asked a range of questions, wanting to know about technical issues as well as Dut’s experience in America.

“What was it like when you first came to America?” asked one pupil.

“How do you drill a well?” asked another pupil to UNICEF staff member, Jesse Pleger.

Dut was able to share about his initial arrival, and his shock at how cold it was and how much food was available.  “What was it like the first time you used electricity?” another student inquired.  Dut simply answered, “Cool.” 

When asked what piece of advice he would give to the students, Dut’s answer was profound.  He encouraged the students to be thankful for what they have, not to complain, and ultimately to avoid using hate to deal with problems, but rather to solve things with love. 

Dut started a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) - Water for South Sudan--back in 2004 after his father died of a water-borne disease. Since then he has drilled over 100 boreholes serving over 50,000 South Sudanese in Guinea Worm endemic states of South Sudan. Dut’s NGO has changed so many lives in South Sudan.  Not only does his organization drill boreholes, but they also build the capacity of the locals to repair and maintain boreholes in their areas.

“The best part of my work is seeing the joy on people’s faces when we successfully dig a well,” said Dut.

Dut’s NGO is part of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster in South Sudan in which UNICEF is the lead agency. The WASH Cluster has over 50 agencies, which work together to provide effective, timely and coherent WASH humanitarian response.  In 2012, the WASH Cluster partners provided clean water to over 1.2 million people in South Sudan.

For more information on the WASH Cluster, please visit the website:



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