In the beginning of the story Salva Dut was an 11 year old boy who had to flee his home at the hands of the Second Sudanese Civil War. He walks with one group who later abandons him because he is small and weak. He later finds another group, of which his Uncle Jewiir is the leader of. Before his group reaches Ethiopia, Uncle is captured and killed by looters.
Salva, now 17 years old, has lived at the Itang refugee camp for 6 years. When the refugee camp closes down, soldiers force the refugees out if Ethiopia, and at least a thousand die crossing the river. Salva becomes the leader of 1,500 "Lost Boys" all determined to reach Kenya. Salva remembers his uncle's advice to take things "One step at a time...one day at a time. Just today-just this day to get through."
One day in camp, news spreads that some young men were to immigrate to America. One day, Salva's name appears on the list for him to go to Rochester, New York. He lives with an English-speaking family. Eventually he goes to college to study Business. He receives a message that his father is alive in Sudan. After realizing the water conditions in Sudan, Salva creates a plan to help Sudan get clean, fresh water. He goes on to speak to many people about his idea. He goes on to dig wells for less fortunate villages in Sudan.