Long Walk to Water is an inspiring, eye-opening true story assigned to all upper campus students, faculty, and staff. In the first weeks of school, Father Jamie confirms that through a personal connection to the “Water for South Sudan” organization led by the book’s author, Salva Dut, he has arranged for a Zoom meeting with Mr. Dut. Students in the auditorium erupt with excitement as Salva Dut signs on to the call from Wau, South Sudan.
Father Jamie begins with some basic “get to know you” questions submitted by students such as “What is it like in South Sudan?” and “What are your favorite Sudanese dishes?” Salva explains that it is over 100 degrees every day in South Sudan and that there is no running water in 90% of the country, a problem that his organization aims to correct by providing wells to villages. Sudanese villagers are empowered as a greater community to convene to make strategic decisions about the wells’ locations and to be a part of the preparations for installation. Father Jamie goes on to inquire if Salva expects that there will ever be another war like the one described throughout the novel, and Salva states that this is a possibility as the country is still growing and there is still much to be resolved among the people.
For a moment, Salva’s connection is lost, and as we anxiously await a restored connection, we are told that the nine-minute call that we have experienced thus far is a result of a successful connection. She elaborates noting that all of the power at the South Sudan compound where Salva is located is completely provided through solar panels.
Luckily, Salva is readmitted to the call and explains that the power failed at the compound. After several questions about his journey, Salva shares that he and the others experienced mental and physical suffering, suffering that was insurmountable for some. He goes on to say that he chooses to let go of his trauma, realizing that the past is the past and that he is best able to move forward by focusing on the future. It is most heart wrenching to hear Salva express feelings that “his childhood was missed” and upon seeing children playing in the moonlight, he wishes that he had experienced the same joys of a child. However, even after much suffering and loss in his homeland, Salva does not plan to leave his country and permanently reside in his second home, the United States. He passionately loves his home and feels that his understanding best allows him to help them progress and grow. His love and generosity are overwhelming, and his gratitude for the opportunity to speak to us, which is absolutely our honor and pleasure, is apparent as he thanks us after responding to each question.
As the call closes, Father Jamie shares a few statements from students regarding their appreciation for Salva sharing his experience and spending his time with us, and then turns the camera around to allow Salva to see an auditorium full of students waving and applauding him. We hope to join Salva in his mission and raise $15,000.00 to build a new well for a village in South Sudan by the end of this year. We all have so many blessings and luxuries beyond measure; building a well is the least we can do to help Salva and his people.