The story of Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan is a true testament to the lives of the Unaccompanied Minors that will continue to be told generations after generations. At no time in my memory was this story so significant and relevant to have a happy ending, but only in the United States of American where dreams can be achieved. Fifteen ago years since our arrival in the United States, the nation of South Sudan has seen a light and better days especially when the civil war came to a halt and peace was signed.
With our arrival in the United States, the objective of our movement were rewarded instead of being betrayed as it was feared by some of our SPLM/A’s top leaders. Dr. John Garang was invited to Washington D.C. by the Bush Administration while American Congress, Churches, institutions of learning, and general public were eager to listen to him and what the SPLM/A have to say about the future of Sudan in general. The government of former Sudan was forced to stop civil war and sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with SPLM/A in 2005. South Sudan was given six years of self-determination with guaranteed referendum and the options to remain within the united Sudan or succeed, which was later realized in 2011. Above all, our lives and that of our families have improved significantly, especially with easy access to better healthcare services across America and East African countries in most cases, respectively. Almost all of us have paid jobs, an important aspect and sign of personal growth, responsibility, and financial wellbeing. We have gained good transferable skills that are gateways to accessing better jobs compared to the general public in South Sudan or elsewhere in the refugee camps in Africa. A lot of us hold university degrees while some have graduate degrees or professional certificates, a good sign that some of us are ready to compete vigorously at a professionally level.
Although it cannot be denied that our lives were made better by the collective generous work of our former teachers, guardians, and caretakers; the success that we have achieved so far today could not be realized in any other way if Maker Kur Jok had not done his diligent work and research and showing his steady hand leadership to take a tough stand by opposing the official decision from the SPLM/A’s top leadership who at that time could not come to term to allow us, the Unaccompanied Minors to come to the United States of America. Therefore it is our true duty to honor, give thanks, appreciation, and support to our former teachers, guardians, and caretakers for all the good work they have done. We can do this by letting Maker Kur Jok know that we did it for him in the names of his colleagues who for years, helped us all pull through the tough time; by generously working hard every day for the sake of our future which we have finally realized today. Ladies and Gentlemen, let honor our true history by putting our hands together financially and help support the man who had constantly spearheaded, helped, and looked out for us when things did not look good. Today let share with him the little that we have and our pocketbooks are always going to be full.
The late 1980’s epic arrival in Pignudo, Ethiopia of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from former Sudan (now South Sudan) was met with many daunting tasks of which caring, supporting, organizing, and educating these children were on top the help seriously needed. Therefore the leadership of SPLM/A under the leadership of Dr. John Garang de Mabior made it a priority to care for these young children in a way that could emulate care that their parents back home would have rendered them. This led to the arrival of teachers, guardians, and caretakers; which was of paramount help in Pignudo in particular and successive refugee camps throughout Ethiopia plus the Internally Displaced Camps inside the then Sudan in the late years. On the forefront of this campaign was our former camp leader who was in charge of Pignudo Refugee Camp early on. The former Inspector General of Police, Lt. Gen. Pieng Deng Kuol used to call us all into the assembly two to three days a week in order to tell us not only what we want to hear. He was doing the impossible, trying to unite the different tribes of South Sudan to live harmoniously in peace together in one place. His everyday message of unity and peace was very simple, quote, “adapt to live here together peacefully because you are one people, brothers, and future for South Sudan”. Pieng often said that we were going to build our residential houses and classrooms so that we can start school when our teachers arrive.
This message of starting school was so stimulating and almost guaranteed right after Dr. John Garang visited us in Pignudo in 1988 for the first time. It was a memorable day in our history because he read to us the 26 English Alphabets while he was standing in front of us in the assembly. In reinforcing that message of unity and peaceful coexistence to achieve our future goal which was education, the arrival of our teachers, guardians, and caretakers of which Maker Kur Jok was one gave us the real hope for our future. They came in and started organizing and educating us all as we begin first grade with the 26 English Alphabets and 0, 1, 2, 3 … for counting. By May of 1991, some of us beginners have reached the 4th grade level for the first time. They taught us how to be adults by taking good care of ourselves. The older guys were tasked to care for the younger ones, the healthier were to looks after the sick by identifying who needed personal care or to see a doctor and take him there when necessary. With their lead, we learned how to prepare meal for the sick. They constantly advised us to stop mistreating or calling one another with tribal names or derogatory languages and instead, start building a lifelong friendship and brotherhood because we were going to live as one family who needed one another as partners at some points in the future.” Indeed today, that message from our former guardians like Pieng Deng, Maker Kur, Awur Mawel (Polataka), etc, is what still connecting and sustaining us all as unique Jesh El Ahmer today wherever we are.
It is an honor that our senior teacher and elder, Maker Kur Jok has visited us here in the United States to see with his own eyes how we are all doing. He wanted to see if we have been good students and adults who can still reflected the lessons he and his colleagues first taught us all since the early days of Pignudo, Dima, Polataka, Moli, Kakuma, etc.
Maker Kur has been one of the top pioneer guardians in our lives beginning from Pignudo in 1988, on our Exodus to Pochalla through River Gillo, our hunger ordeal in Pochalla (Golkur) in the June-August 1991, our long flight from Pochalla to Kakuma in 1992 through Jebel Gisa, Kor Nyalongoro, Buma, Kor Ahgreb, Magoss, Kapoeta, Narus, Lokichoggio. Maker Kur again helped organized our stay in Minors Groups in Kakuma Refugee Camp where life turned to difficulties and when malnutrition and insecurity topped the list as these are facts that cannot be disputed today. While majority of us Minors go through nights punctuated with sleeplessness because of those difficulties we faced in the camp, in the mind of Maker Kur Jok and his colleagues, were prayers and dreams for our future. He constantly scouted all the four corners of the globe, thinking of who to contact the next day by mail, to seriously explain how the Unaccompanied Minors desperately needed any kind of help available even from outside Kenya. This is where he and the rest of his colleagues at Radda Bernan Center in Zone 3 constantly attended daily long meetings and conferences with visitors from various UN and Human Rights agencies, explaining that the basics Rights of a Child which were guaranteed in the Geneva Convention could not be properly protected in this current environment of Kakuma Refugee Camp in particular, and Kenya in general. He will laboriously lecture and argue that there have to be a better place other than Kakuma Refugee Camp if the lives of this young generation were to be protected and the future for South Sudan was to be guaranteed.
In the end, Maker Kur Jok’s powerful words reached the ears and touched the hearts of the United States of American Congress and in early 1998; he became the first person to receive that good news that the Unaccompanied Minors (Lost Boys of Sudan) in Kakuma were given the opportunity for resettlement in the United States of America. With his tenacious ability to negotiate tough issues to find long lasting solutions, Maker Kur Jok completed his tough assignment of caring for us in Kakuma in a very remarkable fashion. He made his historic and final decision that the Lost Boys of Sudan must go to the United States of America regardless of what the senior leadership of our movement back then said; which was their fear that our presence in the United States may betray the objectives of the movement, possibly weakening the standing and position of the SPLM/A internationally but which they at that time communicated differently. Their official argument was that the unaccompanied minors will never come back to South Sudan since they are too young and will definitely lost out into the Americans’ liberal culture.
Again Maker Kur Jok made another tough call by giving 60 girls the opportunity to come to America together with the Lost Boys so that we can have Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan, a combo so tough to beat. As of today, we all realized that our teacher and guardian did it out of his generous heart, otherwise he would have just find himself and his family a resettlement in the west like the way some other educated adults have done it while we were in the camp. It is for this reason that we will hold him so dearly close in our hearts and lives as long as we live. Maker Kur is so proud of our progress that we made collectively or individually so far and he recently during his address to the Bor County Assembly in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, called us into action to be the leaders of today and not tomorrow. I am confident that now or in the future, he will give it a chance to support any program that we set up because he know how we think and what we can do individually or collectively. My fellow citizens of South Sudan from all walks of lives, I ask you to support him financially if you really appreciated all that he had done to others (Jesh El Ahmer or Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan) even if you were not part of us at that time. Even though you have not been affected by his generous work directly, I am sure you had been affectedly indirectly in a positive way because he did it for a bigger because which is the future of our country, South Sudan.
Collection of Donations for Maker Kur’s Support Proposal
- The edited version of this article is to be announced/distributed to South Sudanese general public across the states
- For easy access each state will appoint two to three people are to collect money from South Sudanese public because Maker Kur is our elder/leader
- The Leadership of BORCDA is to coordinated with participating states and myself of which we can hand the money to the BORCDA to present it out
- Individual donation of any cash amount and or gift of any kind is to be accepted
- The deadline for this project is going to be August 5, 2016
- Our gift of money or other items is to be handed out to Maker Kur by the BORCDA leadership in a small ceremony together with a certificate of Thanksgiving and Appreciation from Jesh El Ahmer/Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan.
Thanks for taking time to read this testimonial on behalf of all of us (The Lost Boys of Sudan). Please contact me directly if you have any question regarding this project.
Manyang Aluong Mathiang