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  Avila students share stories and struggles from Sudan  
                   
  Kansas City, MO    
April 24, 2009
 
 

Avila University’s Whitfield Center was silent as students, faculty and staff listened to three Lost Boys as they shared their experiences of growing up in Sudan, being forced to flee their homes, traveling across Africa and coming to America.

Avila students Ayuel Leek Deng (James Leek) and James Deng partnered with fellow Lost Boy Peter Kuir, a student at UMKC, to share their life stories with the Avila community.

Leek, who recently published the book “Courageous Journey: Walking the Lost Boys’ Path from the Sudan to America,” shared his story of fleeing his home at the age of seven and eventually arriving in the free land of America in 2001. He said that although he recognized many faces in the room, he had not officially met everyone or told them his story.

“I’d like you all to know who I am,” Leek said. “I have seen you in my classes, in the library or around campus, but now I am introducing myself to you. Now you will know my story.”

After watching a short video about the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, the boys opened the floor for questions. They were asked about their families, siblings, birthdays, coming to the United States and learning English.

“When I first came to America, I went to California,” Deng said. “I did not know how to drive, but a friend of mine taught me. California is not an easy place to drive and I didn’t know my brake very well, but after I hit a car, I learned.”

While the boys shared funny anecdotes about life in America, Burger King #6 meals, slipping on icy sidewalks and finding jobs, the tone of the presentation was that of hope.

“Our memories, they are terrible, but now it can only get better,” Deng said. “In life, there will always be challenges that face you. You just can’t ever give up.”

The boys emphasized that education has always been their first priority. To come to America, they needed education; to survive in America, they need an education; and, most importantly, to help save their country they need to put their education to good use.

“We have a saying, that education is our father and mother,” Leek said. “Many of our parents are dead, so our education is what speaks for us, what shows that we are good people.”

That education includes their studies at Avila, but also educating people about the Lost Boys and Girls. Deng, Kuir and Leek all travel the country to inform others about the wars in Sudan. Leek has also co-founded the non-profit organization Lost Boys Face Foundation.

“We have made a courageous journey – not meant to be, but became,” Kuir said. “Now you know our stories. It is good to know, but it is great to help.”

For more information about the Lost Boys Face Foundation, please visit http://www.helpsudaninternational.org.

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Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.