Rick Gregory, Writer

Translating Messages From Heads To Hearts

The Lost Boys of Sudan

Since many have indicated a desire for a bit more information about the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, I thought I’d do a quick primer . . . I also have to insert a bit of editorial disclaimer here; these are no longer boys – and not very lost. Those I’ve met are incredibly intelligent, articulate, gracious, generous, passionate men, willingly leaving comfort and relative prosperity in the US to return to Sudan. They plan to invest their own resources, indeed their very lives in an effort to see a decimated country flourish once again.

In what has been called the second civil war in Sudan, north fought south from 1983 until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005. During this war, nearly 2 million southern Sudanese were killed and more than 4 million driven from their homes.

Nicknamed “the Lost Boys” by several aid organizations operating in Sudan, most of the boys were orphaned or separated from their families when government troops (from the North) systematically attacked villages throughout southern Sudan killing many of the inhabitants, most of whom were civilians. When villages were attacked, girls were raped, killed, taken as slaves to the north, or became servants or adopted children for other Sudanese families. Consequently, relatively few girls made it to the refugee camps. The younger boys survived in large numbers because they were away tending herds or able to escape into the nearby jungles. Orphaned and with no support, they made epic journeys of hundreds of miles (some over 1,000 miles!) and lasting years across Sudan’s borders to international relief camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. It was a miracle they survived thirst, starvation, wild animals, insects, disease, and one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century. Experts say they are the most badly war-traumatized children ever examined.

In 2001, about 3,800 of the Lost Boys arrived in the United States. Since then, many have received university education and in some cases, gone on to pursue graduate degrees. It has become Sherry’s and my privilege to be invited into the lives of a handful of these now grown young men who are passionate about returning to Sudan and investing in the lives of their people and country.

You can find many resources, but I’ve read or watched these and know they’re good:

– Dave Eggers, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. A novel based on the story of Valentino Achak Deng, now living in the US

– John Bul Dau and Michael Sweeney, God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir. The life story of John Dau, who was also chronicled in the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us. ISBN 978-1426201141

– Judy A. Bernstein (ed.), They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky. The true story in their own words of the 14-year journey of Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng and Benjamin Ajak, now living in the US.

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