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A Special Visitor to Mont’ Kiara International School

By Bryan Wawzenek
A Special Visitor to Mont’ Kiara International School

Salva Dut, center, getting the rock star treatment in Kuala Lumpur (photo: Lisa Robidoux/M’KIS).
Two Grade 4 students are walking to the water fountain. They round the corner and freeze. In hushed excitement, one blurts to the other, “There he is,” as if her friend could possibly have missed the tall, slim African man strolling through the corridor; the man who made the trip to Kuala Lumpur from Sudan to speak at assemblies and interact with students.
While Salva Dut is not a sports hero or a pop star, he has become known for his incredible story as a Sudanese “lost boy” and for founding a charity, Water for South Sudan, to help the people of his home country. He came to Mont’ Kiara International School (M’KIS) to inspire students to take action in their lives.
Mr. Dut grew up in war-torn Sudan and when he was 11, he was forced into exile by the country’s second civil war. Millions died in the prolonged conflict and millions of others, like Mr. Dut, walked for months through the desert, looking for safety. They spent the next decade living in desperate conditions at refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.
At the age of 21, Mr. Dut was allowed asylum in the United States and adopted by an American family. A few years later, he was told that his father was still alive and was able to make the journey back to Sudan to visit him. During his trip, he learned of the great need for clean water in his father’s village and was inspired to raise money to build a well there. He founded a charity, now named Water for South Sudan. Since 2003, one well has become 177, serving about 400,000 South Sudanese residents—including Mr. Dut himself, who has returned to build a life in his home country.
In 2010, Salva’s story was the inspiration for Linda Sue Park’s short novel, A Long Walk to Water, a book that Grade 6 students at M’KIS read each year. Language arts teacher Steve Sostak, the “architect” of Mr. Dut’s visit to M’KIS, said the idea came to him at a Global Issues Network conference in nearby Singapore: “I have been longing for some type of community activity that could rally our spirit and unite us behind a common vision,” Mr. Sostak said. “When Salva agreed to come, I felt that his incredible life and gentle soul could bring us together under the theme of hope and perseverance.”
It turned out that Mr. Dut would do much more than just give a keynote address. From 9-14 October 2013, he participated in nearly a week of events which would include every M’KIS student, from three-year-olds to high school seniors, as well as faculty and parents.
For their part, the school and parents association raised more than US$10,000 for Water for South Sudan. Mr. Dut’s reaction? “When I came here, I didn’t expect this beautiful thing. Today, I saw something like magic... If I die tomorrow, I know these people will take care of this world.”

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