His Gift Changes Lives


Sudan has been ravaged by civil war and genocide for a quarter of a century, but Valentino Deng hopes to help change that. The article below by New York Times columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, talks about Valentino, a 30-year-old former Sudanese refugee who opened the first high school in his home town of Marial Bai. Deng’s colleague, Dave Eggers, the author of “What Is the What,” a biography about Valentino, has partnered with him, and all proceeds from the book go toward the school.

Valentino’s school opened earlier this year with 100 students, and the goal for 2010 is boost enrollment to 450. Another priority is to add girl students. “I want to enroll more than 50 percent girls,” Valentino said. “But to do that, I have to house them, because families will not allow a girl to go far away to school without a place to stay.” The school also focuses on leadership through service, and Valentino requires students to participate in activities such as building huts for displaced people, and he actively recruits volunteers. The article reports: “Eight high school teachers from the United States, Canada and New Zealand traveled at their own expense to Valentino’s school last summer to train teachers and work with students. They raved to me about how eager the students are to learn; some students burst into tears when the volunteers had to leave.”

With more schools in the United States emphasizing service learning and leadership, Mr. Deng’s vision is timely. According to the World Bank Data and Statistics, almost half the world—over three billion people—lives on less than $2.50 a day. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. Source: 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25. Two-thirds of all children not attending school are girls because when a family is forced to choose between sending a son or a daughter to school, it is generally the daughter who remains at home. Poverty and traditional beliefs about the value of educating girls keep 90 million school-aged girls out of the classroom. Source: http://www.ggef.org/top.html.

Most U.S. students would be astonished by these numbers, and we need to expose them to these kinds of real-life issues so they can develop a passion for helping solve some of our world’s most pressing problems using their own resourcefulness and imagination. LifeBound’s book, Junior Guide to Senior Year Success: Becoming a Global Citizen, champions students to see how their gifts and talents could make a difference. We also will be releasing a new book this spring of 2010 on Leadership for Teenagers, that promotes skills for the 21st century. To request a review copy of Junior Guide, or to reserve a copy of our new Leadership book, please contact us toll free at 1.877.737.8510 or email contact@lifebound.com. We look forward to hearing from you.


The New York Times
December 17, 2009
His Gift Changes Lives

Here’s a story for the holiday season. A 30-year-old former refugee is putting together a most extraordinary Christmas present — the first high school his community has ever had.

Valentino Deng, 30, is the central figure in the masterful 2006 best seller, “What Is the What,” by Dave Eggers. The book records Valentino’s life after the Sudanese civil war strikes his remote town in South Sudan. His friends were shot around him. He lost contact with his family, and he became one of the “lost boys” of Sudan. Fleeing government soldiers, dodging land mines, eating leaves and animal carcasses, Valentino saw boys around him carried off and devoured by lions.

At one point, Valentino and other refugees were attacked by soldiers beside a crocodile-infested river. He swam to safety through water bloodied as some swimmers were shot and others were snatched by crocodiles.

To view this entire article visit www.nytimes.com

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