Former War Refugee Visits The ZONE

Former War Refugee Visits The ZONE

On Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, the 45 students and staff members who attended the “Lost Boy of Sudan” presentation by Gabriel Bol Deng during 6th and 7th period had an eye-opening experience. They learned about the harsh and cruel realities of the third world country Sudan, an Arab state in North Africa and the Middle East.

“I really didn’t know anything about Sudan or its conflicts until Mr. Deng told us about it,” junior Amber Lopez commented.

Gabriel Bol Deng, a 38-year-old South Sudanese, came to The ZONE to share his story and some words of inspiration. The ZONE, located in the North Building, not only helps students after school for homework and support, but it also provides the DMAE campus with academic and extracurricular activities.

“It was very rewarding to see how much of an impact Mr. Deng made on the students. It was definitely eye-opening and a great experience that he shared with us,” said ZONE counselor Liz Corsini, who coordinated the event.

Mr. Deng was 10 years old when the North Sudanese Army led a violent attack on his village in South Sudan.

The political, social and economic conflict between North and South Sudan caused his country to be flooded with violence, prostitution and near genocide. It tore the country into a bloody civil war.

Mr. Deng told of how he was forced to run into a dark forest for safety as the North Sudanese Armies burned his village to the ground and killed hundreds of his people, including his parents.

“I was very shocked to learn about all of the pain and the obstacles Mr. Bol Deng went through just to get to America,” remarked junior Skyla Charles.

Mr. Deng fled his Sudanese village with other boys, finally making his way out of Sudan and into Ethiopia where they were safe for a time. When political upheaval started in Ethiopia, Mr. Deng once again had to flee. This time he escaped to Kenya, where he stayed in a refugee camp. While in the camp, Mr. Deng received a primitive education, but it gave him hope. He made his way to the United States in 2001 and began his journey to becoming a teacher.

When he returned to Sudan on May 22, 2007, he witnessed the poor education the Sudanese students received in his village, Ariang. The children were schooled in makeshift classrooms under trees without properly trained teachers, instruction materials, or any basic school supplies.

Thus, he felt determined to transform the poor learning environment there into a permanent and stable learning facility.

To carry out his goal, Mr. Deng founded HOPE for Ariang, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, opportunities, and resources to the South Sudanese population, with a special focus on women and girls.

Even though South Sudan became an independent country on July 9, 2011, followed by a decrease in the tensions between the North and the South, the new country still has obstacles to overcome. His book, Lost Boy, tells the whole story of his boyhood odyssey.

Presently, Mr. Deng travels around the world to inspire others with the mantra that helped him overcome extraordinary odds: resilience, respect, a positive attitude, and hard work.