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What is the What: Moving from Story Telling to Action

“Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered these last difficult days…I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength.” – from What is the What by Dave Eggers

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

If you have read the book What is the What, you know that it is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It is the harrowing story of a Sudanese Lost Boy, Valentino Achak Deng, who collaborated with Dave Eggers to share his experiences with an American audience. Valentino was separated from his family during the Second Sudanese Civil War and made his way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. After leaving the refugee camp, Valentino lived in Kenya for several years and then moved to the United States.  What is the What blends fiction with Valentino’s account of his long and dangerous journey.

In 2006, Valentino created the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation and established Marial Bai’s first high school. Marial Bai is a village in Northern Sudan. The school opened in 2009 with a very limited budget and just 85 students. There is no lighting in the school and the children read by candlelight, but Valentino is determined to offer these children a quality education.

To raise money for Marial Bai Secondary School, Valentino is traveling around the United States hosting speaking events. If you are interested in hosting a dynamic and thought provoking speaker on campus and supporting Valentino’s dream of opening more schools to accommodate the thousands of children of Marial Bai, please visit the Valentino Achak Foundation website.

This Wikipedia article and this Washington Post article were used as background for this blog post.

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