HARRISBURG, S.D. (KELO) — Achut Deng lives in Sioux Falls, but her story began on another continent. She was born in Sudan, but because of the second Sudanese civil war, she had to go south to Kenya in 1991. That was the year her grandmother took a bullet for her.
“My grandmother took this bedsheet and put it over me, and then she took me against her chest, and so that’s how she got shot,” Deng said.
Deng spent 10 years at a refugee camp in Kenya. She walked there from Sudan.
“It’s really far, it’s really far,” Deng said. “I mean, it’s country to country. So it took days.”
Deng is an author of the book “Don’t Look Back” which recounts her survival and travels from Sudan to the United States where she arrived as a refugee in 2000. She spoke about her book with students at Harrisburg High School on Monday.
“I love studying history, but especially the human side of it, and it’s really rare that you can find such good first-hand accounts of how wars can affect people and their lives,” Harrisburg High School junior Sean Jepsen said.
“This is someone’s real experiences, and I really like the book, and I was like, ‘And I get to meet the author?’ Harrisburg High School sophomore Reagan Campbell said. “Like, I get to see the person who experienced this and see how much she amounted her life to.”
At the heart of Deng’s message is what she wrote in both Jepsen and Campbell’s books: “never forget who you are.”
“Talking to students, it’s the world,” Deng said. “It means the world for me.”
Deng has worked for Smithfield Foods since 2013. COVID-19 at Smithfield’s plant in Sioux Falls introduced Deng to a New York Times reporter, and this eventually led to Deng connecting with Keely Hutton, who became the coauthor of Deng’s book.