Those that know the history of the war in Sudan know about the unrest that lasted for 22 years and the 2 million lives that it claimed. But a hardship that is not discussed as often is the plight of the young boys that have lost and been lost. These are the young boys that have been stripped of their homes, their families, and essentially, their freedom. These are the Lost Boys of South Sudan.
When the war began in 1987, approximately 20,000 boys, mostly between the ages of 5 and 7, were forced to flee their villages in South Sudan. Their only hope for survival was to find refuge in a neighboring country like Kenya, Ethiopia, or Egypt. Their journey would be long and arduous, often absent of food, water, and safety. Before the voyage is complete almost half will die. And those that survive will continue to endure unspeakable tribulations.
With the help of allies in Darfur, the militia of North Sudan proceeded to carry out a plan of genocide against their southern brothers once the civil war began nearly three decades ago. The aggressors, who were widely known as the Jangaweed, began burning villages in South Sudan. They were given strict orders to take the women and girls as slaves and to slaughter the men and young boys. The boys ,who were natives to the burning villages, were told to run at the first sign of trouble. And so they ran, only to find themselves alone and orphaned once the fires and smoke had settled. And so they walked, not knowing at all where the road ahead would lead them. None of them could foresee the deplorable future that awaited them.
The boys walked and walked, showing compassion towards each other and forming a brotherhood. Together they marched on with little to no food, contaminated drinking water if there was access to any at all ,and no protection from the wild animals that saw them as prey. They walked for many months and for thousands of miles. While dodging militia and fighting disease, the boys prayed for the families they had been so viciously driven away from. Many of the Lost Boys would be the only surviving members of their villages.
Those that were able to make the trek to Ethiopia found refuge that was short-lived. The Ethiopian government that had welcomed the Lost Boys with open arms was overthrown by allies of the Northern Sudanese. The camp that housed the boys was attacked by militia, forcing them to cross a wide, deep river that was laced with crocodiles.The unarmed camp that had proven to be a safe haven was no longer. Over 5,000 boys met their demise during this attack. The survivors made it to Kenya, only to continue to live in poverty.
Over 3,000 Lost Boys have settled in the U.S. since 1999. Even with the burden of their painful experiences, those that were forced to flee their homes have consistently put a strong emphasis on the importance of education. Many of the Lost Boys who had been educated in the Kenyan refugee camp began to dream of bringing education to their homeland of South Sudan, where the literacy rate is among the lowest in the world.
One group of Lost Boys settled in the Midwest and have become advocates for education in South Sudan. This group of men began meeting every month to discuss the importance of education for a free South Sudan and to strategize about how to afford the country the resources that it needs. With the help of some of their American friends, the Lost Boys formed an organization known as Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan. The courage and resilience of the young boys who once ran from burning villages is a testament to us all - The power of education can be felt in even the most destitute of places and in the dire of situations.