San Francisco and South Sudan
Valentino Achak Deng is an advocate for the right to universal education and sustainable development. He grew up in Southern Sudan, where he was separated from his family during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). He then lived for nine years in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where he received his education and began his public service career.
In 2001 Deng resettled to Atlanta and has toured the U.S. and Europe speaking about his life in Sudan, his experience as a refugee and his collaboration with author Dave Eggers on What Is the What, the novelized version of Deng’s life story. In 2006, Deng and Eggers established the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation to help rebuild Sudanese communities by increasing access to educational opportunities. The foundation’s focus is on quality education, vocational training, sustainable development and girls’ education. Despite Deng’s hardships, he maintains an unwavering, positive outlook on South Sudan and believes the solution lies in increased education and knowledge of human rights and improved economic opportunities.