Click here to read A Sudanese Lost Boy uses trauma to build a school at OpenFile Halifax
The war in Sudan has ended, but Deng says the drama and trauma caused by it hasn’t.
“It’s living in us…it’s living in me,” says Deng. “The best way to treat myself is to help bring hope to those who don’t have hope.”
Wadeng Wings of Hope is a charitable society Deng says will “bring tribal conflict down by bringing children together.” The society has a number of projects, like giving out goats, sewing machines, and drilling a well—all in preparation for building a high school to serve an area of 70,000 people where the next closest secondary school is 200km away.
Wadeng means “better tomorrow,” says Deng, or “look into tomorrow, it will get better”—an idea that helped Deng survive during the war and push on toward a better future. These words, first spoken to him by his mother, helped him get through tough times as a child and in the refugee camp. “[Wadeng] is a way to bring hope,” says Deng, “many kids lost their parents. Many kids have lost hope.”
Education, says Deng, is the way to fight the hatred that was built during the war and the fighting that continues because of poverty, lack of education and focusing on cultural and religious differences. Education, says Deng, helps people provide for themselves and become secure and protected.
In order to start Wadeng Wings of Hope, Deng spent years volunteering, sleeping on couches and in basements, and telling his story across Nova Scotia. Deng focused first on speaking to children, and telling them what he went through as a young boy, and counted on them to go home and talk to their parents. “It was not easy,” he says, “but that’s how I started.”
Wadeng would not exist today without the support of many people who helped and continue to help run the organization. Dr. Colin Dodds, president of Saint Mary’s University, has supported Deng and Wadeng throughout the years. “I don’t think it matters which country or society,” says Dodds, “education is the future.” Dodds believes the Wadeng school can change people’s lives. “[Deng] can do that, he can make a difference, one step at a time,” he says,
In order to continue making steps, Deng says he needs a lot more help. Because the area is landlocked, says Deng, to build one classroom in Duk Padiet costs about $25,000 US. Funds are available to start building two classrooms, but the plan is to have an eight-classroom school with a kitchen, dormitories and teacher’s quarters. They also need money for supplies, teachers’ salaries and general operating costs.
Sharon Beasley, volunteer board member and treasurer of Wadeng, says that because of the extreme cost to build the school, the organization needs to build upon the grassroots fundraising Deng has done to support Wadeng’s causes thus far. “We have spent the last four or five months working on a strategic plan and a business plan for Wadeng so that we can now start going out to corporate fundraisers and foundations to look for funding to build the school,” says Beasley
Support from individuals, however, will remain very important. “It’s time for us to focus on small organizations, bring one village at a time to the world stage…I want people to take risks with their money,” says Deng. “It’s not about donations, it’s not about aid. What I’m doing is I’m creating opportunity,” says Deng. “I’m not going to change Southern Sudan, I know that, but I have to do what I can.”