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John Dau Foundation cures blindness in South Sudan

John Dau, Founder of the John Dau Foundation, speaks at a foundation fundraiser at the Skaneateles Country Club on Sept. 29.

John Dau, Founder of the John Dau Foundation, speaks at a foundation fundraiser at the Skaneateles Country Club on Sept. 29. Joe Genco

Duk Payuel, where Dau was born, has become Skaneateles’ sister village with various community members and groups working to provide aid to the Sudanese village.

Jack Howard, chair of the foundation’s board, started off the evening by announcing that if the attendees of the event were able to raise $20,000, an anonymous donor had agreed to match that amount with another donation.

Dau spoke to introduce the film and commended the community for being so supportive of his efforts to help his homeland. He said that people often have often asked him why he settled in Syracuse after escaping Sudan as a young man.

“Why did you go to Central New York, it is very cold and really snowy?” he said. “I tell them the people in the Central New York-area, in the Syracuse-area and in the Skaneateles and Cazenovia-areas, are very warm.”

While the film highlighted some of the work done by the foundation and the clinic, more funding is needed to reach their next set of goals Medical Directors Barbara Connor, of Skaneateles, and David Reed, of Cazenovia, said.

The foundation is an unusual success story of a locally based Non-Governmental Organization succeeding, Reed said. And since the most of the board of directors was present, people can know their donations are important. “Every dollar you donate gets to these people and helps save a life,” he said.

The next mission for the clinic is to help it become autonomous by training more Sudanese people to work there. They also want to purchase a vehicle to be used as an ambulance. The region gets heavy rain for much of the year and it can become hard to travel by foot, so a vehicle would help get more people to the clinic, Reed said.

Documentary films have been an essential piece of the success of the foundation by helping spread the work about the work that the foundation does, Connor said. The first documentary about the foundation and the lost boys “God Grew Tired of Us,” was honored at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere. “Duk Country,” is currently making the rounds to film festivals around the worlds and has gotten similar recognition thus far, she said.

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