By Pauline Lacson
The “Lost Boys of Sudan” captivated a group of students at a recent presentation at Loyola University Chicago.
A group of 23 students listened intently to two Sudanese men at the event hosted by Loyola Refugee Outreach.
Kuek Garang, 31, president of the Abek Community Development Program, and Peter “Magai” Bul, 28, are “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Displaced from their war-torn homes at the age of 6, they ran from bullets and bombs, eventually settling in a Ethiopian U.N. refugee camp.
To open their stories of survival, Gene Tenner, Communications Director for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, spoke, painting a vivid picture of the harrowing journey many lost boys of Sudan endured.
From 1983 to 2005, about 27,000 boys fled home without shelter, food, or respite from violence during the Second Sudanese civil war. Approximately 10,000 survived, making it to U.N. refugee camps. Roughly 4,000 now live in the United States, Tenner said.
“They have survived hell on Earth with dignity and respect,” Tenner said. “Sudanese have never sought a handout, just an opportunity.”
Such is the case for Garang and Bul, who plan to use their bachelor’s degrees by enacting political and social change in South Sudan. They are studying economics and political science, respectively, at Northeastern Illinois University.
Garang’s story is is highlighted in the documentary 22 Years from Home, which he has shown and discussed across America.
“The United States invited us to live here, so we must spread the word about our story so it may never happen again,” Garang said.
Bul thanked the audience members for their time.
“We have this sort of humanity to be leaders, to make life better for future generations,” Bul said.
Because “being in Chicago was a huge culture shock at first,” said Bul, one can be a leader by helping refugees of all backgrounds adjust to life in Rogers Park through the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (ECAC).
To learn more about refugees in Rogers Park and/or volunteering with the ECAC, send an email to Sammy Adhikari at firstname.lastname@example.org.