In the 1980s, civil war broke out in Southern Sudan in Africa. Nearly two million civilians were killed as government troops attacked and burned villages. Girls tended to stay with their parents and were raped, killed, or taken into slavery.
Some boys were out tending cattle, sheep, or goats when the attacks occurred. Other boys, some as young as six years old, were too young to fight. They were urged to run into the jungle. Banding together, approximately 30,000 orphaned boys traveled for months on foot, ultimately reaching a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
The boys stayed in Ethiopia until 1991 when Communists overthrew the government and chased the boys out with tanks, killing many of them as they fled. The survivors ended up walking for a year back through Sudan. Nearly half of the boys died from starvation, dehydration, or drowning. Others were killed by gunshot, crocodiles, or lions. Those who survived ended up in another refugee camp, in Kenya, where the conditions also were rough. While in Kenya, the boys learned English.
Because of this difficult situation in Kenya, the United States Government intervened in 2000 and brought about 4,000 of the boys here. The boys were dubbed the “Lost Boys” by a journalist writing about their struggle. The name was borrowed from the story of Peter Pan. That character lived on the small island of Neverland among a group of other children without any parents. That group of kids was called the Lost Boys. The term was then borrowed to describe the reality of the Sudanese boys living alone. Although they do not necessarily love the nickname, it has stuck.
Fast forward to today: Currently there are more than 100 Lost Boys living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Men now, most are in their 20s and 30s. They are diligent, hardworking young men who have strong faith, a good work ethic, and take nothing for granted.
They have been working at places like Central Market, Home Depot, Tom Thumb, and Presbyterian Hospital. Others have lost their jobs in the down economy.
Some recently graduated with college degrees from UT Dallas and UT Arlington. They have degrees in things like accounting, business, and neuroscience. They, too, are looking for jobs, ideally ones where they can put their hard-earned education to work.
Meet some of the guys
Bol – Born in Aweng, Sudan, Bol fled his village at age five when he and his brother heard gunshots while they were in the fields herding cattle. His brother said “leave and never come back.”
Bol was fortunate to join a large group of children and survived by being carried often. He was one of the first groups to resettle at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Like many Lost Boys, he spent nine years at Kakuma before being chosen to live in the United States. Bol arrived in America as a teenager with an intense desire to attend high school.
Unfortunately, Bol had to work to support himself. Instead of attending high school he worked and obtained his GED. But Bol’s desire to become further educated was not extinguished. He managed to save $8,500 to purchase a car and then taught himself to drive so he could attend Richland College.
While working part-time, Bol has taken college courses over the past four years. Recently, he received his Associate’s degree in science and plans to pursue pharmacy school in the future. Bol is very excited about reuniting with his parents, brother, sister, and two nephews this summer and thanks those who are helping send him home!
Read more about Bol in a recent Dallas Morning News article.
Jacob – Jacob graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in finance and accounting in August of 2008. To financially support himself during school, Jacob worked as many hours as he could at Central Market. For more than a year after graduating from college, Jacob was unable to find a professional job and continued working at Central Market to pay rent and buy food.
In the fall of 2009, through the client of a friend, Jacob received a call for an interview where he was qualified because of his degree. Within a month he was hired. He loves his job and is using his education to achieve his dreams. Jacob also has become a United States citizen.
Jacob has not been back to Africa for many years. He lost his parents during the war. Today, he is living a new life in his new home, the United States.
Peter – Peter’s long-term dream is to become an attorney and help the Sudanese people, either here or back in Africa. Right now, he wants “a job that requires a college degree.”
A strong student, Peter graduated from UT Austin with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology. He currently is working an hourly job until he can find a professional position. The apartment Peter shared with four other guys burned to the ground and they lost everything, including their computers. Peter says this set him back at least a year in terms of achieving his goals.
James – James worked six years in a warehouse in Carrollton while completing his Associate’s degree in business at El Centro College. For a while, he worked two, full-time jobs. Unfortunately, the warehouse closed in August 2008, and James has been looking for another job since. This is difficult because he does not have a car or easy access to the Internet. His unemployment also recently ran out, making things even more difficult.
James also is supporting his widowed mother, still in Africa, which makes paying rent or buying food a struggle. He never complains, but things have been really tough for him lately. James is currently studying to get his medical assisting certification. He is hopeful that when he finishes, life will get easier.