Lost Boys of Sudan plan fundraiser to aid homeland
Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted Wednesday, March 07, 2007 www.dailyherald.com
Samuel Anei survived a war. At only 8 years old, he was forced to run from his home, alone, from his family and friends, and find safety and security in a new land.
Anei is a Lost Boy of Sudan. You can hear his story as well as the harrowing experiences of other Lost Boys at the Arcada Theater on Saturday when a local organization, Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan Foundation, presents the 2006 Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary, “God Grew Tired of Us.”
This fundraising event will include a visit from former NBA superstar Manute Bol, also from Sudan.
The term “Lost Boys” was borrowed from the children’s story “Peter Pan.” It is used to describe an entire generation of approximately 26,000 Sudanese boys who were driven from their tribal villages during a civil war between north and south Sudan in the late 1980s.
Regardless of age and current living situation, these survivors, most of whom are orphans, continue to refer to each other as “Lost Boys.”
“I left Sudan in 1987 for Ethiopia. It was very crazy,” said Anei, who was only 8 years old when civil war engulfed the region. “My village was attacked by militia (sent by the) Sudan government. A lot of people were running in different directions. I followed a group.
“We walked for three months. I had no one to take care of me. No food, no water. We survived by eating wild food and drinking stagnant water. In Ethiopia, I lived in a refugee camp for four years, then there was war in Ethiopia. We flee to Sudan. In Sudan there was still war. Killing, still killing. So we flee to Kenya in 1992. We walked to Kenya. We stayed in Pochalla (Sudan, on the Ethio-Sudanese border). The town was attacked by the Sudan government. We were taken to another town between Sudan and Kenya — Lokichokio. We stayed there. It’s the base of United Nations Relief.
“But then the (Sudan) government was sending militia to kill us. There were insecurities. Then we fled to Kakuma, Kenya. I lived there, in a refugee camp, for nine years, until I had a chance to come here.”
Throughout all this, Anei said he came through with minor injuries, but the emotional scars are great. “To run from war, you feel kind of depressed for a long time,” he said.
The last time Anei saw his parents was in 1987. He does have two brothers left, an older and a younger, who are still living in Kenya, in a refugee camp.
Anei came to Chicago on March 7, 2001. He, along with five other boys, was one of the first Lost Boys to arrive.
“We were in a different situation (before 2001), under United Nations care. Bill Clinton, the United States and the United Nations, arranged for (a group of) us to come here.
“The United States agreed to resettle 4,000 Lost Boys in 2001,” said Jane Mooberry, who serves on the board of the The Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan Foundation. “Then when 9/11 happened, the resettlement stopped.”
Now, nearly 3,600 of the “lost boys” (now found men) have been resettled in the U.S. For various reasons, only 89 “lost girls” have been resettled in the U.S., according to transitionsabroad.com.
According to lostboyschicago.com, more than 125 Lost Boys live in the Chicago area. These young men are dedicated to helping the next generation of Sudan, especially now that a peace agreement has been signed between the government in the north and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in the south.
“They are all living in apartments, working, and going to school. Some have already become American citizens. That is the goal for all of them,” said Mooberry. “The majority of them will remain in the United States because they feel they can provide more assistance from here, than if they were to return to southern Sudan. They see the hope for the future, for the youth of Sudan.”
Now 26 years old, Anei lives in a house on the North Side of Chicago with other Lost Boys. He works at Tri-Lite in Bridgeport, and attends Truman College, where he is majoring in business administration and taking a minor in management.
“It’s very good. It’s not like the life I had in Africa,” Anei said. “I miss Sudan a lot. I miss the friends who used to play with me. I miss Sudanese food. I miss the culture. One day I might be going back there to help.”
Until that day comes, Anei is helping Sudanese children who are still living in Africa by serving as a board member of the Fox Valley-based Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan Foundation.
This organization came together in September 2006.
“The Lost Boys (who are living in the area) wanted to give back to Sudan. They didn’t know how to do it, and they looked to Americans for direction,” said Mooberry.
Lost Boys who serve on the foundation’s board live in Elgin, Carol Stream, Wheaton, and Chicago.
“I’m one of the persons who has been in the life that was so hard,” said Anei. “Children in southern Sudan (still) have no school to go to, and no place where they can play games. My main goal is helping with their education, and with the chance to bring this new generation to a new situation.”
Before war broke out in southern Sudan, Anei’s father was a farmer, and the family had cows, sheep, goats and chickens. He was also a chief of the village where their tribe, the Dinka, lived.
Testimony to the figurative smallness of the world, Anei is from the same village as Valentino Achak Deng, the main figure of Dave Egger’s popular new novel, “What is the What.” While Deng lives in Atlanta, he has been to Anei’s Chicago home to visit his childhood friend.
Come learn the modern history of Sudan, the largest country in Africa, and support efforts to aid the children whose lives have been destroyed by 20 years of civil war, by attending the Lost Boys fundraiser Saturday.
“God Grew Tired of Us” will be shown at 2 and 7 p.m.. The theater is at First Avenue and Main Street in downtown St. Charles.
“God Grew Tired of Us” covers the life of three of the Lost Boys over a four-year period as they leave the refugee camp in Kakuma and move to the United States. This film is narrated by Nicole Kidman, directed by Tom Walker, and produced by Brad Pitt, Molly Bradford Pace, and Peter Gilbert. To learn more about this film, visit www.godgrewtiredofus.com.
Following the showing of this 2006 Sundance Film Festival award-winning movie, Bol will speak, and will then be joined on stage by the eight Lost Boys who are on the board of the foundation for a questions from the audience.
Bol is believed to have been born on Oct. 16, 1962, in Sudan. At the age of 18 he was recruited to play college basketball in the United States. Bol was drafted in 1984 and played until 1995. He is the only player to block more than 300 shots in his first two seasons.
“Since retiring from the NBA, Manute Bol has been working tirelessly to improve the conditions for people of southern Sudan,” said Mooberry.
Joining Bol on stage will be William Mou, Mayom Majok, William Majak, Arkangelo Dut, Samuel Mayoul, James Mum Ajuong, Deng Deng and Anei.
Tickets are $10 general admission, $50 and $100.
Patrons who purchase $100 and $50 tickets get preferred seating and will be able to visit with Bol and the Lost Boys at a private reception at 1 and 6 p.m.
Tickets will be available at the door the day of the event. You can also make donations and purchase tickets online at www.rebuildsudan.com (click on events), or reserve tickets via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include show time, number of tickets and price. Tickets will be held at the Will Call window. Donations of any amount are welcome. All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the foundation.
“The mission of this organization is geared toward providing hope for the youth of southern Sudan. The main goal is to build schools and community centers where they can nourish mind, body and spirit,” Mooberry explained.
Donations will go towards building costs, and to the purchase of educational supplies, as well as recreational materials.
Donations can be made online, or mailed to The Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan, P.O. Box 6264, Elgin, IL 60121-6264.