Samuel Anei and Joseph Akoon, members of a group of refugees from Sudan known as the Lost Boys, shared their story at Meredith College on March 25.
The Lost Boys of Sudan include more than 20,000 people who were displaced as children during a civil war in their country that lasted from 1983-2005. More than 4,000 refugees came to the United States in 2001 with assistance from the International Rescue Committee and a variety of churches and non-profits.
Following a viewing of a news feature on the Lost Boys that ran in 2001 on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Anei and Akoon talked about their experiences in Sudan after fighting began.
Anei said, “We were advised by our parents whenever you hear gunshots, run any direction that is safe.”
“I found myself alone without my parents,” Akoon said, “so I just started walking to where other people were walking.”
Their journeys into Ethopia, back into Sudan and eventually to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, took months. They walked without adults, traveling only at night, even though this meant possible attack by animals.
“It looked like every journey we had, we had a problem in front of us,” Akoon said.
Anei came to the U.S. in 2001, and is a student at Truman College in Chicago. Akoon, who came to the U.S. in 2004, now lives in Greensboro, N.C., and attends Guilford Tech.
The Lost Boys are now working to give back by helping to build schools in Sudan. Anei is one of the founders of Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan, an effort to raise money to build secondary schools in the Sudan. Anei estimates that it will take between $350,000-$500,000 to build a school, which he hopes will have 400 students, split evenly between boys and girls. For many of the girls, this will be their first opportunity to attend school.
“All of us are better off because we were able to go to college,” Anei said. “There are a lot of children in Sudan without the opportunity to attend secondary school.”
Anei said he was inspired to begin the effort after coming to America.
“When we got here, our minds grew big and we began thinking of what we could do to help Sudan,” Anei said.
Visit http://www.rebuildingsouthernsudan.org for information on how to help.
Anei and Akoon’s visit to the Triangle, which was organized by UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student Nicole Fender, also included stops at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. The Meredith event was sponsored by Meredith’s Center for Women in Ethics and Public Life, with support from the Office of the Chaplain, the Office of International Programs, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Department of History and Politics, the Department of Human Environmental Sciences and CORE 404.
Date Submitted: 2009-03-26
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