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Central Square Students Hear Message of Hope, Survival

Seventh grader Kendra Herzog writes notes while hearing a message from former South Sudan refugee John Dau.

Seventh grader Kendra Herzog writes notes while hearing a message from former South Sudan refugee John Dau.

Central Square Middle School seventh graders heard a heart-wrenching story of survival from former South Sudan refugee John Dau.

Seventh grader Kendra Herzog writes notes while hearing a message from former South Sudan refugee John Dau.
Seventh grader Kendra Herzog writes notes while hearing a message from former South Sudan refugee John Dau.

His story brought a real-life perspective to the students’ English Language Arts project about the book, “A Long Walk to Water.”

The book is about a man named Salva Dut, who happened to meet Dau in South Sudan.

While their struggles were similar, each refugee experienced their own combination of loss, destruction, hope and compassion along the road to salvation.

Dau explained that one night, in the midst of a civil war, his village was attacked and a long journey to Ethopia ensued.

He experienced hunger, dehydration and loneliness; but his determination to live a better life led him to the United States of America.

Here, gone were the days of eating grass and fearing for his life.

His new struggles became an adjustment to freedom, open arms, use of appliances, electricity and snow.

As Dau continued his story, students jotted down notes for their ELA project.

John Dau, former South Sudan refugee, back center, speaks to a packed Central Square Middle School cafeteria during a recent visit to the school.
John Dau, former South Sudan refugee, back center, speaks to a packed Central Square Middle School cafeteria during a recent visit to the school.

They applauded his will to succeed and several students learned that hard work and determination can take them anywhere.

For Dau, that brought him to college and humanitarian work. He has since formed four nonprofit organizations, largely focused on helping the South Sudanese re-build their lives.

He said that is needed because while South Sudan received its independence in 2013, fighting and destruction has continued.

At the end of his presentation, Dau answered student questions and received thanks from some of the seventh graders for showing much admiration for American, a place he now calls home.

Elizabeth Corey, of the CSMS Seventh Grade ELA Team, said she and other staff members plan to develop a fundraiser to benefit one of Dau’s foundations.