Misplaced Boys of Sudan on a Journey of Hope in Jacksonville – Life-style – The Florida Instances-Union
John Kuai and Abraham Kuany were little boys when they ran away from home.
These two and thousands of other Sudanese like her weren’t typical runaways, however. They ran for safety, ran for their lives and ran away from the strife and violence inflicted on their villages, families and friends.
Now, John and Abraham are two of about 4,000 Sudanese men living in the United States and about 150 in Jacksonville known as The Lost Boys of Sudan. You are far from lost; In fact, they are found and they are survivors.
They were referred to as the Lost Boys by the United Nations laborers who oversaw the escape of these young South Sudanese boys in the late 1980s and who fled the horrors of their country’s civil war between the Arab Muslims of the north and the black Christians of the south.
John and Abraham did what all the boys were encouraged to do by their families at the time – they fled.
So they walked hundreds of kilometers towards neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Kenya.
Like the others, John and Abraham ran away without knowing whether they would ever see their families again or return to their villages in the Werkok region of South Sudan.
“We ran into the woods and never stopped,” said Abraham. “We left our families behind.”
“We fled the war disaster,” said John, who witnessed the murder of his father.
John and Abraham, both 29 years old, ran into the thick forests and to Ethiopia, where they lived in refugee camps for about four years until civil war broke out in that country too, forcing them to flee again to their own war-torn land Country. But they ran again, this time to Kenya.
In 1996 these two Lost Boys were brought to refugee camps in Kenya with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations. At that time, these two, then 16, became friends and attended elementary school and high school together.
There, John and Abraham also said they had seen the possibilities of modern medicine, and both reported of their first overwhelming desire to be part of the process that could help stop the inevitable pain, suffering and death that was so much Part of her young life.
“It was too big for me to understand,” said Abraham. “I didn’t realize the healing power of medicine until I went to Kenya. I saw the miraculous benefits of science and how doctors gave sick people a small pill that helped cure their disease. I thought these pills might help To heal people from their diseases and keep them from dying, I wanted to be part of it. “
John felt the same way.
“When I saw that there was a cure for people with diseases like malaria, cholera and diarrhea, I realized I wanted to help others get access to the same medicines,” he said.
The desire to become doctors and cure the sick remained. After completing their high school education in Kenya, refugee and aid organizations were instrumental in helping John and Abraham and 3,800 other Lost Boys relocate to various cities in the United States.
In March 2001, John joined other Lost Boys in Jacksonville, and Abraham followed a few months later.
“America is a great country when you have a dream and a desire to do something with your life,” said John.
Like the other Lost Boys, and with the help of local volunteers, John and Abraham quickly learned to transition to a new culture, find work, and enroll in college. In addition to helping the newest Jacksonville residents integrate into American life, these volunteers also helped educate the people of Jacksonville about the Lost Boys journey. Soon the Lost Boys were invited to share their story about their incredible journey to church groups and school children. And the Jacksonville people opened their hearts to them, inspired by their relentless work ethic and focused dreams for the opportunity to get an education.
A local woman, particularly moved after hearing some of the Lost Boys speak in 2001, decided to respond to her inspiration and help these young men fulfill their dreams.
“I was inspired by their incredible story,” said Joan Hecht, a one-time backup singer for the Johnny Van Zant Band who retired from a career in sales and marketing. “Although I’ve always been interested in the African people, their story touched my heart and I knew I had to help them somehow.”
At first, Hecht volunteered her time, helping the men with everyday life, helping them find work, enrolling in college, and getting used to American life.
“Some of the Lost Boys had never used electricity and didn’t know how to cross the street,” said Hecht. “They have this overwhelming desire to learn and get an education no matter what. Plus, they have an amazing work ethic and strive to be successful in this country. I’ve watched them struggle to get two full-time jobs, college -Take classes and only survive with two hours of sleep. I wanted to help them achieve their dreams. “
In 2004, Hecht founded the Alliance for the Lost Boys in Sudan, a non-profit organization that helps Sudanese refugees with their medical and educational needs and provides help and support to the people of South Sudan. Hecht said Allianz helped more than 55 Lost Boys with tuition and books, and provided medical care and surgery to more than 100 local Lost Boys.
Today, the goals of John and Abraham continue and the desire to serve people still lives deep in their souls. They are very aware of their happiness and are grateful for the opportunities they have been given to improve other people’s lives.
In May 2009 Abraham graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Public Health. He works full time as a medical laboratory assistant at the Baptist Medical Center and is preparing for the medical college admission test. After graduation, Abraham returned to Sudan for the first time in 20 years. “It was an emotional visit to see my parents again,” said Abraham. “I am very grateful for the volunteers who have helped me, especially over the past 20 years, so I want to go to medical school to expand this spirit of helping others. To affect the lives of others as I have been affected and to make a difference. “
John is expected to graduate from UNF in December and is preparing for medical school soon. Last May, John received the UNF’s Albert D. Ernest Jr. Caring Award. This annual award is presented to a UNF student who has demonstrated the spirit of caring, humaneism, and volunteering exemplified by the award’s namesake.
Although the run for John and Abraham was filled with both sadness and joy, and the path to medical school requires resilience, they are unfazed by the next step in their journey.
“My life today has been shaped by every step of my journey,” said John. “If I could go from Sudan to Ethiopia and the United States, I could make it to medical school.”
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