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John Dau, also known as Dhieu-Deng Leek, is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who was featured in the 2006 award-winning documentary God Grew Tired of Us. Today, he is a father himself and a human rights activist for the people of South Sudan. In 2007, he founded the John Dau Foundation which aims to transform healthcare in South Sudan.

John Dau (Dhieu-Deng Leek)
Dhieu-Deng Leek

(1974-01-15) January 15, 1974 (age 45)
ResidenceSyracuse, New York
Years active6
EmployerJohn Dau Foundation
Known forNot giving up, strong leadership
Height6 ft 8 in (203 cm)
Weight190 lb (86 kg)
Board member ofmany
ChildrenAgot, Leek and Akur
WebsiteJohn Dau Foundation


Dau was born into the Dinka tribe in war-torn Sudan. In 1987, his village of Duk Payuel in Duk County, Jonglei was attacked by government troops involved in the Second Sudanese Civil War between the Muslim-controlled government in northern Sudan and the non-Muslims in Southern Sudan. The violence scattered his family, and Dau was forced to travel on foot for three months until reaching the relative safety of Ethiopia.[1]

"There was a lot of problems mounting on us," Dau told The 700 Club, "including starvation, thirst, the fear of being killed by other local people or the wild animals. The very difficult situation was the lack of water."[2]

Dau stayed in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for four years, but when civil war broke out in the region, he was once again forced to flee. As one of thousands of "Lost Boys of Sudan," Dau wandered hundreds of miles and faced disease, starvation, animal attacks and violence, until arriving in Kenya. While living in the Kenyan Kakuma refugee camp, he attended school for the first time and sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam in 2000.[3] In 2001, he was one of 3,800 young Sudanese refugees resettled in the United States and one of 140 young people brought to Syracuse, New York.

Despite the initial culture shock — women driving cars, huge stores filled with food — Dau has succeeded in the United States and can proudly say that he is living the American dream. He was able to bring his mother and sister from Sudan and, while working 60 hours a week at three jobs, he received an associate degree from Onondaga Community College. He earned a degree in Policy Studies at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 2011.

Additionally, Dau is an experienced social entrepreneur. He has founded three non-profit 501(c)3 organizations. In 2003, he helped establish the Sudanese Lost Boys Foundation of Central New York which raised over $35,000 for books and medical expenses for Lost Boys living in the United States. In 2005, Dau was instrumental in founding the American Care for Sudan Foundation which solicited funds to build and operate the Duk Lost Boys Clinic in Southern Sudan. He has raised more than $1.8 million for the clinic. Currently, Dau is the president of the John Dau Foundation which was founded in July 2007 to start and develop health facilities for most of the populations of Duk, Twic East and Bor South counties in the state of Jonglei in South Sudan.

Dau's move to the United States and early experiences in the country are the subject of the film God Grew Tired of Us, which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.[4] The title of the documentary is a quote from Dau discussing the despair he and other Sudanese felt during the civil war.[5] His memoir, also titled God Grew Tired of Us, was co-authored with Michael Sweeney and released in January 2007 by National Geographic Press.

In over a decade in the United States, Dau has earned many awards for his public achievements and charitable work. He received a National Geographic Emerging Explorers Award and was named a Volvo for Life Award finalist in the Quality of Life Category in 2008 which carried a contribution of $25,000 to the John Dau Sudan Foundation.[6] As he continues to work to succeed in the United States he envisions a positive future for Sudan. He says, "I hope for my country to get out of war and secure a good government. I want Sudan to become a place where people are welcome and hope is restored." Dau lives in Syracuse, New York, with his family.


  1. ^ "John's Story". John Dau Foundation. Retrieved 2008-06-02.[dead link]
  2. ^ "John Dau: 'God Grew Tired of Us'". Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  3. ^ "Interview with John Dau". National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  4. ^ Stephen Holden (2007-01-12). "After a Struggle to Escape Comes an Effort to Adjust". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  5. ^ Neely Tucker (2007-01-20). "He Escaped Sudan, But Not the Tug of A Heavy Heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  6. ^ "John Dau Selected for Volvo Awards". Post Standard. Retrieved 2008-01-23.

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