John Bul Dau kicks off new lecture assembly series

Sudanese genocide survivor John Bul Dau

March 7, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( John Bul Dau’s journey took 14 years and encompassed 1,000 miles before he was pulled from a life of violence, hunger and deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa.

On March 13, at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, he will share with the university’s students his story of unimaginable suffering and determined endurance when as a young teenager he fled his village to become one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Dau and tens of thousands of other boys ranging from three to 13 years of age, desperately sought escape from government troops sent to destroy them all during Sudan’s civil wars. After five years on the run, after surviving starvation, thirst, wild animals, and repeated attacks during additional conflicts, Dau and his group finally found shelter in a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya in 1992. In 2001 Dau was among 3,800 young Sudanese survivors selected to start a new life in the United States. He and 140 others landed in Syracuse, New York where they were introduced to life with giant supermarkets, flush toilets and electricity.

Since his arrival in the U.S., Dau has earned two degrees and founded three nonprofits to benefit his fellow Sudanese. He is the recipient of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers Award and was named World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for 2008. His story and that of two other young Sudanese, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor, is the subject of a documentary titled “God Grew Tired of Us” directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn. Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman narrates the Newmarket Films production which won the 2006 Sundance Film Festival for both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. A trailer for the documentary can be viewed at this link:

Dau’s talk will launch the new Distinguished Lecture Series at La Sierra University Assembly, an annual lecture designed to impact students’ lives. The student assembly will take place at 11 a.m. and the public is invited to attend. La Sierra University Church is located at 4937 Sierra Vista Ave., Riverside. Dau’s assembly presentation can also be viewed live online at:

The Distinguished Lecture Series, coordinated by the university’s Intellectual Life Committee, will be held once a year in the spring and is intended to impact the lives of the students. “We are looking for speakers who have a special story to share, a story that is inspirational and that will encourage students to overcome obstacles,” said Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, chair of the committee and of the university’s art department.

The new series is the brainchild of La Sierra University Provost Steve Pawluk. “The distinguished speaker series offers La Sierra University students the opportunity to hear remarkable speakers of international stature,” said Pawluk. “We wish to use this series to impress upon our students the key idea that higher education is not just for our students’ personal benefit, but to also help them become leaders who will use their learning for the greater good. We are confident that John Bul Dau will help us do this well.”

Dau’s story began in 1987 at age 13 when he ran from his burning village in Duk County in south Sudan to join thousands of boys fleeing northern Sudanese troops. The boys formed surrogate family units and ate grass and mud to survive. Dau helped care for the younger ones in his group, many of who died. A four-year stay in an Ethiopian refugee camp ended in the chaos of civil conflict. When they tried to return to Sudan, the boys faced death from government bombing raids. Dau and his group ended up in the Kukuma refugee camp in Kenya. There, at age 17, he learned numbers and letters by drawing in the dirt with sticks.

Since his arrival in the United States, Dau has pursued higher education and efforts to aid the plight of his countrymen. While working 60 hours a week he earned an associate’s degree from Onondaga Community College and recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in policy studies from Syracuse University. He helped establish the Sudanese Lost Boys Foundation of Central New York which funds medical and academic costs for Sudanese refugees in the United States. He also started the American Care for Sudan Foundation which later merged with the John Dau Foundation in Syracuse, New York. The foundation supports the building and maintenance of clinics in South Sudan and in 2007 built the Duk Lost Boys Clinic in Dau’s home village. Dau has been instrumental in raising more than $1 million for the building and maintenance of the clinic which has hosted 18 international doctors and treats between 75 and 150 people per day.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  March 07, 2012