Posts Tagged ‘center officials’

Jany Deng was one of the first Lost Boys to relocate to the Phoenix area.

Jany Deng was one of the first Lost Boys to relocate to the Phoenix area.

By Dianna M. Náñez – Jan. 5, 2012

Refugees shift focus to rebuilding S. Sudan

For years now, the Arizona Lost Boys Center in Phoenix has been a home base for refugees who fled Sudan for the U.S. to escape their country’s civil war.

This week, in honor of their country’s struggle to secure hard-fought independence, the center announced it is changing its name and its mission.

The Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development will offer training and a fellowship in South Sudan where the men can use their education and skills to help rebuild their home country.

On Wednesday, about a dozen Lost Boys celebrated their birthday at a community celebration hosted by Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore.

Many of the Sudanese refugees do not know their exact birthdays because records were destroyed or lost in the war. So they mark the occasion at a group celebration.

Sitting with Valley residents who came to offer well wishes, a group of about a dozen men discussed their home country’s future, and shared dreams for their own futures.

With South Sudan in the midst of a struggle to secure its independence, the Lost Boys explained their desire to return home to help rebuild.

It’s the right way to pay forward the kindness and opportunities they’ve received in the U.S., said Jany Deng, the center’s program manager and one of the first Lost Boys to relocate in Phoenix with his brother in the mid-1990s.

It’s the right way to help the family they left behind, John Kok said.

It’s the right way to honor their loved ones who died, Bol Bulabek added.

To aid in that desire, center officials announced at the party that the board has voted to change the center’s name and mission.

As many as 27,000 “Lost Boys,” a nickname given to the displaced children, fled their villages to escape a war that began in 1983 and lasted more than 20 years.

With about 600 Lost Boys living in Arizona, the state has the nation’s largest concentration of such refugees.

The boys who turned to the community center for support and fellowship since it opened in 2003 have grown into men.

The Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development will focus on bringing together the global community of Sudanese refugees who want to return to their country to support democracy and opportunity in South Sudan.

The center has started fundraising to form a leadership-training program that will include a service fellowship in Sudan.

“These are men who value education,” said center spokeswoman Kadi Tierney. “They’ve survived so much. They all have different skills to offer.”

About eight years ago, Tierney’s family adopted Koor Garang, an Arizona Lost Boy. Garang is studying to be a nurse at the University of Arizona.

Garang and Tierney’s mother, Carol, have formed a South Sudan non-profit, Ubuntu, that provides mosquito netting and education for children.

Garang dreams of staffing Unbuntu full time when he graduates. At Wednesday’s party other Lost Boys talked about fulfilling their dreams.

Kok, a nursing student, envisions returning to Sudan to build a hospital.

“We have two homes,” he said. “America is our home. Sudan — our hearts are there.”

Anthony Kuol, 29, talked about his escape from Sudan. He was 6 or 7 years old, got separated from his parents and later was captured by a soldier. He escaped and walked nearly 1,000 miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Last year, he visited Sudan and was reunited with family members he thought had died. Making the trek to his home village he came upon children living on the streets.

When he finishes school, Kuol said he will return to Sudan.

“I want to give back what America has given us — that is love,” he said.

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