A few years ago this July, I randomly happened upon a documentary entitled God Grew Tired of Us (link connected to Hulu). It told the story of The Lost Boys. I sat, for almost 90 minutes, entranced, horrified and in awe of the Lost Boys' plight.
If you do not know the story, it begins in 1987 when their villages were attacked, their parents killed and all life as they knew it gone in an instant. Many of the young males were kidnapped to serve on the front lines in battlefields or to be used as "test dummies" ordered to walk through minefields. Those who were able escaped to Ethiopia on foot. What seems far-fetched to us was their reality - they escaped and still had to dodge crocodiles, lions and other animals.
When those who made it got to Ethiopia, peace was not long-lasting. A shift in government in 1991 caused them to have to flee again. By foot they made their way back to the camps in Sudan to receive help from the International Committee of the Red Cross. They encountered incredible rains and fast-flowing rivers. Many of the boys were lost along the way and died of starvation, disease, aerial attacks or were killed by animals.
From Sudan they traveled on foot to Northern Kenya to find safety. UNICEF has been able to reunite approximately 1,200 of the Lost Boys with family members, but many remain in the camps. It is an incredibly tough life with little opportunity for an education let alone decent nutrition.
In 2000 over 3,300 Lost Boys began the process of resettlement into the United States. One hundred of the Lost Boys reside in San Diego.
I knew I had to become involved. I did a Google search and found The California Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls Foundation. I emailed and became a volunteer immediately.
Meeting the Lost Boys changed my life. Their stories, their attitudes, their hope and their humility; it boggles my mind how grateful they are for everything in their lives. When you meet them, they don't carry anger or resentment. Their smiles are infectious and their kindness second to none.
I've often heard we need to help our own people here in the United States. Yes, that is true. And still, unless you're a Native American you're here because your ancestors immigrated to this country. For me, helping others knows no boundaries.
So while I'd LOVE to shark dive at Seal Island, see the Big Five on a safari and learn about by Moroccan ancestors, what interests me most about Africa is South Sudan and its history, the plight of the Lost Boys and how a government can be so inhumane. Children, walking thousands of miles on foot, to find safety and shelter. How can that be possible? The Lost Boys have told me they want to show me their country. There is a caveat: They will go with me when it is safe. I long for that day. For them.
These are a few photos that cannot begin to speak to how precious my time has been with the Lost Boys, but I hope it gives you a small glimpse into their spirits. If you are interested in learning more, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. You can also visit DreamToBeMore.org.
|Many Lost Boys do not know their birthdays because they were children when they escaped. So the US Department of Immigration assigned them all January 1st birthdays. Each January they hold a birthday party and celebrate.|
|We were getting ready for an auction at one of the volunteer's homes. Here one of the Lost Boys sees a Slinky for the first time. I AM SO humbled I was there to capture it. I will never forget - sometimes the small stuff is BIG stuff!|
|Some of the most incredible people you will ever meet in your life. The Lost Boys in San Diego.|
I have never been to Africa. It is my hope, someday soon, my visit will start in South Sudan. How beautiful that would be!