Salva Dut is Founder and Executive Director for East Africa Operations of Water for South Sudan, Inc. He is the inspiration and vision behind the humanitarian not-for-profit organization, which drills wells to provide safe, fresh water to remote villages of his native land, South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest regions.
In 1985, Salva, then just 11 years old, was one of the 17,000 “Lost Boys of Sudan” who fled that country’s southern region during Sudan’s two-decade civil war. During that flight, a significant number of the Lost Boys perished from hunger, thirst, disease as well as wild animal and military attacks. Among the lucky survivors, Salva escaped to the relative safety of Ethiopia and later to Kenya.
As a teenager in 1990, Salva led about 1,500 of the Lost Boys from Ethiopia across hundreds of desert miles southwest through Sudan to the United Nations-controlled Kakuma refugee camp near the Kenyan city of Lodawar. He lived in the barbed wire enclosed camp with 92,000 other refugees for nearly six years.
In 1996, under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, about 3,800 of the Lost Boys, including Salva, came to the United States while other Boys went to Australia and Canada. Arriving in the US in 1996, Salva spoke little English and lacked formal education.
The civil war finally ended in 2005 with A Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In January, 2011, the Southern Sudanese people voted to secede from the Republic of Sudan. In July, 2011 the new Republic of South Sudan was born.
Salva’s family members who survived the war and remained in Southern Sudan thought he was dead. But, in the US, Salva was determined to somehow reconnect with them.
In January 2002, Salva learned from a fellow refugee that his father, Mawien Dut, was seriously ill in a UN clinic, which he’d reached after walking 300 miles. The two had not seen each other in over 16 years. Sensing that this could be the last opportunity to reunite with his father, Salva returned to Sudan. There he discovered that his father was suffering from waterborne parasites and disease. There was no clean water in his fatherʼs village. Once reunited with Salva and healthy again, the elder Dut abandoned his life-long home and moved about a hundred miles away to where he could find clean water.
Salva’s trip reconnected him to the harsh truth of everyday life for the people of South Sudan who lack access to safe, fresh water. Grateful to the American people whoʼd helped him change his own life, he returned to the US determined to make a difference for the people of his birthplace. He and a small group of friends founded Water for South Sudan, Inc. in 2003 to raise funds and drill water wells. It has become Salvaʼs life mission.
Salva became an American citizen and studied International Business in Rochester, New York, while working as president and drilling manager of Water for South Sudan, Inc. He moved back to South Sudan following his nation’s independence in July, 2011 and now oversees Water for South Sudan’s operations in Africa.
Salvaʼs heroic personal story and authentic humble character inspires audiences to support Water for South Sudanʼs humanitarian mission of service to the people of South Sudan.