refugee

Posted by Ellen

Alex Bial, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, joins in the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of a citizenship ceremony in Burlington, Vermont.

Bial and the other Lost Boys in the United States came here after ten years or more in Kakuma, a UN refugee camp in northern Kenya; Kakuma is Swahili for Nowhere.

Some 20,000 boys from southern Sudan were separated from their families in the late 1980s when government soldiers swept across the southern part of the country, burning villages and attempting to enslave village children, especially boys. Families sent their young boys to hide in the forest, where they formed small bands that eventually came together in a massive exodus seeking safety in Ethiopia, hundreds of miles away across a war zone and a desert. They walked for a year.

Almost half of them died along the way. And after three years as refugees in Ethiopia, war again caught up with them and they were forced to wander for another year before finally reaching Kenya. Those who survived found strength in intense bonds with one another and deep commitment to nurturing the group.

Now scattered in communities across the United States, Lost Boys have raised millions of dollars to help refugees left behind in Kakuma. As of 2010, the camp held more than 70,000 refugees, families as well as Lost Boys, most of them from southern Sudan and Somalia.

The Sudanese civil war finally ended in 2005, and late in 2010 voters in the southern part of the country voted overwhelmingly to become a separate, independent nation, the newest state recognized by the United Nations.