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Constructing a well

Dallas Unitarians fund well in South Sudan

'Lost Boy' returns to Dallas with report about water well dug with help from First Unitarian Church.
By Donald E. Skinner

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Eight months ago Bol Deng Malual was raising money at First Unitarian Church of Dallas to pay for having a well dug in his home village of Ayiet in South Sudan. This month villagers are drinking from that well.

Malual was one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” displaced or orphaned by the civil war there 20 years ago and brought to the United States.

Malual was working in a grocery store in Dallas when he was befriended by a First Unitarian member, Deanna Charles. When she heard his story and learned that he had a dream of providing a water well for his village, Charles made that a project of First Unitarian.

The congregation raised more than $23,000 for the “WaterBol” project, much of it by giving up soft drinks, alcohol, and other beverages for Lent. Some gave money outright. Malual returned to his village in October and hired a contractor who dug a well 500 feet deep into a pure aquifer. Now, for the first time, villagers don’t have to walk a half hour for water that isn’t all that clean, bringing it back in containers balanced on their heads.

Malual, who returned on January 5 to Dallas, where he is in pharmacy school, said the villagers were overjoyed. “This is one of the greatest things that will ever happen to my people,” he said. “It would have taken me half my life to do this without the congregation’s help. I am so grateful for First Unitarian’s support. Now the young girls of my village have a chance to go to school and learn because they don’t have to carry jerry cans full of water in the early morning.”

Charles said she had little doubt the project would succeed. “I knew our congregation would support this and I knew Bol was motivated enough to complete the project.”

Malual’s goal is to obtain a pharmacy technician’s license and a nursing degree so he can bring healthcare to his village.

Charles said First Unitarian will continue to have a relationship with the village of Ayiet beyond the drilling of the wells. “We’re hoping to eventually work toward establishing a medical clinic there with Bol’s help. If people want to make a difference in Africa, this is a direct way to do it,” she said.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter, senior minister, added, “We are so proud of how this all came together. We followed Bol's lead after he came into the church and became part of our congregation.

“We raised the money to give a village in a far-off land the gift of clean water and through the spiritual practice of Lent and contemplation about the many options we have to drink every day when others hardly have one option. So now in a small village in [South] Sudan there is a well with the words 'First Unitarian of Dallas' on it,” Kanter said. “Above all, this is just the first step. We plan to discuss with Bol what is next and have talked with him about a school building and a clinic building. The closest ones are now miles away from his village.”

Malual is one of around one hundred Lost Boys in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Charles has created an interfaith group, Friends of the Lost Boys – DFW, to support them by providing mentors, extended family, and assistance with tuition and emergency needs. The group is trying to raise around $100,000 to help put the boys through community college in the next few years.

Photo of well construction in Ayiet, South Sudan, by Bol Deng Malual. See sidebar for links to related resources.

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