John Dau Shares Experiences at Collegiate, Cares for the People of South Sudan

John Dau, Collegiate School’s Global Scholar-in-Residence, has spent time this fall talking with students across Collegiate’s three divisions. He also has remained dedicated to the John Dau Foundation (JDF), whose mission is to provide health care and nutrition programs to the citizens of South Sudan — one of the most war-torn, impoverished countries in the world.
Since June 2019, Mr. Dau and the John Dau Foundation have raised $2.6 million in contributions from international donors including private individuals, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SSHF). Currently, Mr. Dau is working with an international donor to fund the building of the first modern hospital in South Sudan designed to service the 19 JDF clinics spread across his native country. Mr. Dau is spending the third week of December in Washington, D.C., with JDF board leadership, planning how to put funds and ideas into action.

In January 2020, Mr. Dau will share his stories with students at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, Connecticut; Newark Academy in Newark, New Jersey; and Central Square Middle School in Syracuse, New York. The speaking engagements are designed to celebrate the power we all have to choose to persevere through challenges we face, as well as provide insight into the myriad of cultural and material differences Mr. Dau faced upon arrival to the United States in August 2001.

Mr. Dau could be seen all over Collegiate’s campus this fall sharing his experiences and stories with students, faculty and local and international guests of Collegiate.

In Collegiate’s Lower School, Mr. Dau was part of the 4th Grade Immigration Unit, sharing with students his immigration experience and the power and security that comes with being an American citizen. Mr. Dau described preconceived notions he and others held about life in the U.S. as well as the reality of adjusting to new cultures. Elizabeth Andrews’ Kindergarten students listened to Mr. Dau share a magical story about inclusion from his childhood, Why Bats Hang Upside Down. The students then shared their thoughts based on the bat’s experience. “If we weren’t different, we would get bored,” one student noted, while another commented, “Everyone wouldn’t like it if we were all the same.”

Mr. Dau introduced elements of storytelling to 8th Graders, encouraging students to see themselves as storytellers. He suggested they look for stories in their own lives, emphasizing vital skills such as listening and paying attention to detail. 

As the 5th Grade delves into their exploration of water, they begin by reading A Long Walk to Water, which tells the story of two Sudanese children and their opposing tribes, which ultimately work together to achieve a greater, common good. Mr. Dau emphasizes the lessons in the book and expands on the importance of water as he works with small groups students and in larger grade-level activities, including a South Sudanese children’s outdoor running game, “Aluthea,” or “the lion game.”

Mr. Dau kicked off the 9th Annual International Emerging Leaders Conference in October by sharing his personal story of survival in his native South Sudan. “I was not born a leader,” he said. “My situation put me in the position to be a leader.” Mr. Dau continued, saying that he survived because he kept moving forward and made the conscience decision to continually find solutions to challenges for himself and others.

In the Upper School, Mr. Dau has worked with Leigh Thompson’s chemistry classes to share first-hand experience with the misuse of important mineral resources and the negative impact the mining industry has on young people, the working class and communities in multiple regions in Africa. Mr. Dau explained that when the act of mining is a safety risk to the public and workers, and mostly benefits officials and government, it is considered illegal mining. Students were encouraged to be aware of how minerals such as cobalt provide power for the lithium batteries commonly found in mobile devices and electric cars. According to Science X, a leading web-based science, research and technology news service, a mobile phone contains over a third of the elements in the periodic table.

If you are curious about the student engagement topics Mr. Dau offers at Collegiate School and to schools around the world, please contact him at