For three men who have survived some of the most tragic events I can imagine, William Mou, Samuel Anai, and Samuel Mayoul of the Lost Boys of Sudan showed no indication of pain, bitterness, or anger. Instead, these Southern Sudanese victims filled the room with hope. It’s impressive to know that such an important element of human emotion is so innate that it cannot be stifled by even the most unimaginable experiences. At the ages of five and seven, these three individuals were forced from their homes and families by attacks from the North Sudanese Islamic fundamentalists. Upon fleeing, the young boys were faced with the challenge of walking for over three months to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, only to be chased out by the same enemies to a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where they awaited UN aid. They came to spend the next nine to ten years of their lives waiting.
Although this is far from what most of us would consider a “normal” childhood, the priorities that were instilled in them were not so different from those that we are taught in our more privileged society. The emphasis they put on the value of education–they understood it as a cure for the Janjaweed ignorance that imprisoned them–is truly inspiring. Gradually, individuals from Kakuma were randomly chosen to travel to the United States, where they realized that getting out of the refugee camp was only half the battle. Each man was responsible for living completely independently of government aid after only a few months, so the shock of adjusting to the new culture and responsibilities barely had time to sink in before the struggles of daily life presented themselves. However these men never lost the hope that I saw immediately when they first began their tremendous story. There is certainly something to be learned by the stories of these incredible individuals, even if it’s nothing more than the willingness to believe in a better tomorrow.
When I asked Mou, Anai, and Mayoul what they would most like to convey through their message, it was far from seeking appreciation for their struggle. They wish only to help those that they had left behind by gathering support for war-torn Sudan and help in the fight to bring the ever-increasing conflict to an end. They’ve founded an organization called “Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan” and are taking on a project to build a middle school.