Former Child Soldier Sounds New Battle Cry for 40 Hour Famine Youth

Conscripted into Sudan’s civil war as a six year old, former child soldier, refugee, now Sydney lawyer and NSW Australian of the year, Deng Adut is challenging young Australians to seize the extraordinary educational opportunities they have and use the power of knowledge to change the world.

Livestreaming  to schools across Australia, Mr Adut will address 900 student advocates attending the new 40 Hour Famine national launch in Sydney which this year is focusing on the biggest humanitarian emergency of our time - the refugee crisis.  As spokesperson for the campaign, Mr Adut will share his awe-inspiring life story as a child solider and refugee to inspire a future generation of changemakers.

World Vision CEO, Claire Rogers, said Australia’s largest international development agency was honoured to have - for the first time in the history of the 42-year campaign - a spokesperson that has ‘lived’ the crisis, transformed trauma into hope and now proudly calls Australia home.

“Deng’s support for the 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge literally gives our campaign a ‘human face’ and as an Australian he is able to brings the crisis right into our homes in a way that we can all relate to,” she said.

This year’s participants will commit to living out of their backpacks for 40 hours to raise funds to assist some of the 65.1 million people who are being forced to flee their homes due to famine, conflict, and climate change. More than half are children.

A prominent lawyer and refugee advocate in Western Sydney, Mr Adut says the Backpack Challenge comes at a time when Australians – particularly youth – are feeling helpless with the daily barrage of social media images depicting the plight of child refugees in search of shelter and food.

“A new generation is growing up with a new global crisis and youth want to do more than just donate to a cause - they want to come together and ‘stand’ with their brothers and sisters across the globe,” he said.

“In South Sudan - as a result of famine and conflict - communities fracture and go in search of food and water, millions of children have been forced to leave school and risk being separated from their families.

“I did not have the chance to leave with a backpack – I was simply taken away. But now today, as a lawyer, I carry a briefcase. There is always hope.  I had hope because of the many people that helped me in my journey.”

Working with disenfranchised youth in his community, Mr Adut is reversing the role of his armed oppressors who raised him on a steady diet of fear, hatred and war.

“Imagine what we can achieve when young people realise that they have the power to make a difference today – what collective hearts and minds can overcome through knowledge and freedom of fear,”

“I can’t imagine a more honourable mission than to save a child’s life. What more when that mission is fulfilled by another child.”

The campaign aims to bring a deeper level of understanding to students across Australia by introducing an inaugural ‘Humanitarian Masterclass’ series of videos that provide teachers and students informative, educational and eye-opening classroom activity in the lead up to this year’s 40 Hour Famine.

Ms Rogers said that with understanding comes connection.

“By giving Australia’s youth a chance to hear the personal stories of Deng and others who came to Australia as child refugees - we hope to empower them to help make the changes they wish to see for their global peers.”

The two-month national 40 Hour Famine campaign will include:

  • Youth Conferences held in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in June with former child refugees including Deng Adut and Saad Alkassab as keynote speakers.
  • ‘Humanitarian Masterclasses’ released to schools across Australia in June
  • World Vision, CEO Claire Rogers visits world’s largest refugee camp - Bidibidi refugee camp in northern Uganda on 5 June.
  • A partnership between World Vision Australia and Jacky Winter Group - with 40 artists who have come together to create art highlighting the global refugee crisis. This partnership was seeded from the use of art as a form of therapy for child refugees at World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces in the Middle East and East Africa.
  • Melbourne Town Hall lights up orange on the weekend of 40 Hour Famine.
  • 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge (11-13 August)

The funds raised during the 40 Hour Famine campaign will help provide food, water, blankets, tarps, temporary shelter and safe spaces for some of the world’s most vulnerable children and support World Vision projects in two different areas heavily affected by the crisis – Syria and South Sudan and neighbouring countries such as Uganda.

Australians can get behind the Backpack Challenge by visiting and join the online conversation at

Media enquiries: Charmaine Waduge on 0433903503 or

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