Lost Boy of Sudan finds home in the U.S.

Only on 7
April 30, 2008 7:52:36 AM PDT
Before the genocide in Darfur, there was an earlier war in Sudan that produced millions of refugees. Thousands of them were young males who became known as The Lost Boys of Sudan. A precious few of them were allowed to come to America to improve their lives.

Valentino Achak Deng is 27-years-old now. He's a student, a husband and an activist. But he says he's no longer a Lost Boy.

"As someone who has grown up, as an adult, the title is a little bit difficult to embrace," said Valentino Achak Deng, survived Sudan's civil war.

It's a wonder he grew up at all with the killing, disease and starvation in his part of Sudan in the 1980s. A deadly civil war pitted rebels against the government's Moraleen soldiers with villages like Valentino's home of Marial Bai caught in the middle.

"We were attacked in our village by a group of Moraleen, who were on horseback and were properly armed. They attacked the village, killed the livestock, killed the people, abducted women and children and burned the village," said Deng.

Valentino was six-years-old and couldn't find his family. His only hope was to join other refugees walking hundreds of miles to relative safety in Ethiopia.

"We didn't have enough food to eat. We were not equipped to go on that journey, so we starved to a point," said Deng.

But he survived, one of 27,000 Lost Boys who made the dangerous trip. Seven years ago, the U.S. allowed 3,800 of the young men into this country. Valentino was one of them; he enrolled in college and got married. He's also trying to give back.

"I have accomplished some of my goals and I have come to the point where I don't look at myself as a mere victim of violence in my country, but someone who can fight to eradicate that violence," said Deng.

His weapon will be knowledge. Valentino is now raising money to build a school in his village. Some of that money comes from a novel called "What is the What," based on his extraordinary life. Construction is underway, and he doesn't plan to stop there.

"We are also going to be building a community resource center, where we want to address gender issues and micro-enterprise businesses to widows and widowers and people of that town," said Deng.

Valentino often travels this country telling his story. He was in the Bay Area for a speech in Berkeley. He's going for a degree in international relations and is currently a sophomore in college.


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