It started with creating a documentary on the lost boys of Sudan, and evolved into providing education for hundreds. Deb Dawson, of African Soul, American Heart shared her story of children torn by war and healed through education.
Deb Dawson is a longtime friend of River Falls Rotarian Karla Thoennes.
In 2007, Deb was on her way to becoming a published author when she met Joseph Akol Makeer, a lost boy of Sudan, in Fargo. Deb had a heart for orphans, and ended up traveling with Joseph to southern Sudan to create a documentary. She then felt she needed to do more than just make a film, so in 2008, they founded a 501c3 nonprofit, African Soul, American Heart.
In 2010, when Joseph returned to Sudan to work, Deb took leadership of the nonprofit. After a visit to Sudan, Deb realized that the children most at risk were orphaned girls, often kept to barter as child brides in exchange for dowry. She chose a site for the African Soul, American Heart School for Girls, which opened in 2012.
In 2014, civil war reached the area of the ASAH School for Girls, resulting in families (and students) fleeing to refugee camps. The ASAH staff located the girls in 11 refugee camps in three countries. They relocated to Moyo, Uganda, renting a compound for the girls and enrolling them in local schools. In 2017, ASAH moved students from the Moyo compound to attend a boarding school near Kampala.
Learn more about ASAH – and watch their short video clips – at