Speakers bring context, deeper understanding to Emerson fourth-grade book study

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Fourth-graders at Emerson Elementary have been reading “A Long Walk to Water,”  which is based on the true story of one of the 3,800 Sudanese “Lost Boys” airlifted to the United States beginning in mid-1990s. 

As part of the lesson, teachers invited speakers to share their experiences that offer context and can help deepen students’ understanding of what they are reading.

Last week, Bol Aweng, a Lost Boy of Sudan who was forced to leave his home at the age of 6 because of war, shared his life, journey and experiences as a refugee with Emerson students. He talked about walking more than 1,500 miles to refugee camps first in Ethiopia, then in Kenya. At 20, Aweng was selected to resettle in the United States. He also shared his work in building The Buckeye Clinic in South Sudan to provide resources and help for young mothers and babies.

On Monday, Abe and Lisa Wright shared their work with students on providing a solution to the world water crisis. Abe Wright is an engineer who started the company, Design Outreach, with Greg Bixler. Among their designs: the LifePump, an innovative hand pump that reaches deep into the ground to access aquifers filled with fresh, clean water, enabling people to have access to reliable water at greater depths than previously possible. The Wrights also brought jerry cans — containers used by women and girls around the world to collect water for their families. Emerson students had the opportunity to lift and try to carry the full containers.

“A Long Walk to Water” features the true story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese Lost Boy who is separated from his family by war and forced to travel on foot through hundreds of miles of hostile territory. He survives starvation, animal attacks, and disease, and ultimately leads a group of about 150 boys to safety in Kenya. Relocated to upstate New York, Salva learns English and continues on to college. Eventually, he returns to his home region in southern Sudan to establish a foundation that installs deep-water wells in remote villages in dire need of clean water. His story is told side-by-side with the story of Nya, a young girl who lives today in one of those villages.