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Houston Matters

He Led 1,500 Boys Across The Sudanese Desert — Now, He Brings Them Clean Water

Salva Dut tells his story of fleeing the civil war in Sudan and explains how that experience led to his current mission — bringing clean drinking water to his home country.


Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, founded the nonprofit Water For South Sudan.


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In 1985, civil war in Sudan killed and displaced millions of people. Among those who fled the war-torn country were thousands of children – mostly boys – who became known as The Lost Boys of Sudan.

Salva Dut was one of them.

As an 11-year-old, he fled to Ethiopia. Then, as a teenager, he led some 1,500 Lost Boys hundreds of miles through the South Sudan desert to a refugee camp in Kenya.

Eventually, he was resettled in the United States where simple conveniences like using a microwave and grocery shopping were culture shock.

While living in America, he learned his father was alive. The two hadn't seen each other in many years. When they reunited, he learned his father was ill from diseases found in the unclean drinking water in his village.

That discovery led Dut to start the nonprofit organization Water for South Sudan, which drills wells to bring clean drinking water to villages in his home country, where he's since returned to live.

Salva Dut of Water for South Sudan poses with Trace St. Julian, an eighth-grader at Houston’s St. Francis Episcopal School at an April 26, 2018 event.

His story is told in the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water, which many students recently read at Houston's St. Francis Episcopal School. Students there also worked on a project to design their own water purification filters. Then, on April 26, Salva Dut came to Houston to meet some of those students and speak at the school.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talks with Dut about his life, his organization, and his mission.

Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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