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Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017 - Evening Program
Education and Economic Empowerment in South Sudan
Valentino Achak Deng

Valentino Achack Deng, former Sudanese lost boy turned human rights and education activist, will highlight the educational and economic efforts underway in South Sudan to help counteract the impact of years of violence and conflict on a generation of youth. How will the newest country in the world, given its minimal financial foundation and political instability, create economic success and financial resilience for its citizens? 

Valentino Achack Deng was born in southern Sudan (now South Sudan), in the village of Marial Bai. He fled in the late 1980s during the second Sudanese civil war, when his village was destroyed by murahaleen—the same type of militia that currently terrorize the Darfur region of Sudan. Deng spent nine years in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, where he worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a social advocate and reproductive health educator. In 2001, he resettled in Atlanta, Georgia. Deng has toured the United States speaking about his life in South Sudan, his experience as a refugee, and his collaboration with author Dave Eggers on What Is the What, the novelized version of Deng’s life story.

As a leader in the South Sudanese diaspora, Deng advocates for the universal right to education. In 2006, Deng and Eggers established the VAD Foundation to help rebuild South Sudanese communities by increasing educational access, including vocational training, to promote youth economic empowerment. In 2015, he was appointed the minister of education for Northern Bahr el Ghazal, one of the ten states in South Sudan which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, and now oversees more than 800 state run schools in addition to the VAD Foundation private secondary schools.

Mr. Deng's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at CMC.

Photo credit: By Stoolhog - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Food for Thought: Podcast with Valentino Deng