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PolyTechnic High School, Pasadena, CA

Words cannot describe the impact that your visit had on our community. The parents, the faculty and most importantly, the students, were riveted and touched by your presentations. You have taught us so much and I would love to find the opportunity to bring you back for more. Know that you are always welcome to Poly. Thank you for making this visit work out and enjoy the holiday season.

Ann Diederich
Ann Diederich Teacher

Buena Vista University

Alepho Deng's life is a story of survival. He told his story to Buena Vista University students and faculty as well as those in the Storm Lake Community on Tuesday night. The experiences that brought Deng, his brother, and cousin out of South Sudan in the early 20's was a story marked by triumph. He carries the story he wrote in the book, They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky, every day to remind him of his life. It gives him perspective for the future. Deng said, "I knew I had to have a picture. The picture of my village on fire and knowing that that life is gone. Not knowing that my family had survived. I knew that they were all dead. I didn't know if any single them had survived. That picture reminded me of survival.”

Much to the laughter of the audience he shared his confusion on the plane ride to America. He’d survived guns and wild animals only to become stuck in an airplane bathroom. He shared stories about what he’d heard about Americans. He was told that Americans keep money in their pillows. When he got to his apartment he took the pillow and cut it open with a knife to try and find it. He also shared the story of when he was beaten up for who he was and had to get his tooth removed.

“I tell my story is because survival requires an attitude of facing whatever you are dealing with head on. Facing it with the intention that you are going to win."

Tessa Moser
Tessa Moser Pilot-Tribune Staff

Palomar College ESL Class

Hi Judy, Last semester, you and Alepho came and spoke to my class at Palomar College in San Marcos

at the request of one of my students, and it was truly the best day of the semester. I just wanted to let

you know what a tremendous impact the book and your visit has continued to have on all of us. There are so many times that I have been having conversations with people who don't have experience with refugees, and their views seem so cold to me. However, instead of getting upset, I've shared what I learned from the book and your visit, and I keep passing on the book to people. It opens their eyes to pain that we are so shielded from here. When the children from Latin America were coming across the border, I passed on the book as well so people could see things through the eyes of children. It doesn't matter what our political persuasion is, we need to understand the suffering of others. How we deal with that politically is another issue, but understanding people's situation is critical.

Right after you came, we had great discussions in class, and they wrote essays based on the book that were very inspiring. After that, students who hadn't taken the class contacted me to see if we were going to use the book again because they wanted to take the class if we were. Many of my students come from painful situations, and They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky really connects with a lot of them. I think about it often.

Susan Tarmas
Susan Tarmas ESL Instructor

Rincon Middle School, Escondido, CA

Everyone is saying that this was just an incredibly powerful visit. The kids really enjoyed Alepho, and the teachers were struck by how poised and articulate he was.

Please convey to him how much we appreciated his time, and of course yours. I thought your intro was absolutely perfect. We'll have to remember it for next time.

Kathie Burge
Kathie Burge Seventh Grade Teacher
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And hundreds more…. Contact Judy at judyabernstein@aol.com for more information.