Aquinas Graduate Changes Lives in South Sudan
Aquinas students hail from many places, backgrounds, and cultures. They bring with them a set of unique perspectives and experiences that inform and enrich the entire student body. By dialoguing with voices different from our own, the Aquinas community is transformed. 2007 graduate Adier Deng can give testimony to that dynamic.
Deng, one of the countless children whose lives were forever changed by civil war in Sudan, has called many places home. A refugee, Deng fled the violence in his homeland by living in camps in Kenya and Uganda. A remarkable story of perseverance in the face of oppressive adversity, Deng has now set his sights on giving back to the home he came from.
Civil war in Sudan has claimed thousands of lives and irrevocably changed so many more. Deng describes the conflict that caused him to seek shelter elsewhere. “We had to go to Ethiopia, that’s where we settled. After that, there was another war in Ethiopia. We came to Kenya, stayed there for eight years - or eight-and-a-half.” Deng was brought to the United States by an effort from the United Nations when he was only fifteen years old.
When asked what brought him to Aquinas, Deng said, “I think at Aquinas, it was like open-eyes for me. I wanted a school that would fit my needs - that is, basically having the attention from the professors. Because Aquinas is a small college, it was just that for me - that was what I was looking for. It got me all that I wanted to succeed.”
This sense of community blended with a challenging educational program affirmed Deng’s decision, an affirmation that would continue to come as he later devoted time to extra-curricular activities. In particular, he speaks highly of his work in the political science department with professor Roger Durham, Ph.D. “I was a member of the AMUN (Aquinas Model United Nations). That was really good.” Upon graduating, Deng received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. Deng spoke about the adjustments he made as an Aquinas student. The curriculum at AQ came up more than once in his conversation, and he concluded, “It was really top-notch.”
Deng decided to continue his studies after his experiences at Aquinas College. During this time, he laid the groundwork for his life-changing organization Africa Hands of Hope. This foundation operates the Dhong School in South Sudan, which is open to young minds ages 13 to 17, providing them with a rigorous, practical education that they would otherwise be unable to achieve.
While facilitating the dreams of disenfranchised young people, Deng is fulfilling a dream of his own, one he credits Aquinas College and his many connections for supporting “It was the help that I got from Aquinas College, through learning how to form non-profit organizations and things like that,” he said.
Deng hopes that this project will be successful and expand, touching as many lives as possible. “We are just at the beginning stage of it, and that is going well…we have lots of people supporting the program. I would say, without Aquinas College, that would not have been possible.”
For more information about Africa Hands of Hope, or Adier Deng, visit www.africahands.org or on Facebook, at facebook.com/Africahandsofhopefoundation.