Some consider the Sudan civil war to be one of the most brutal wars of the 20th century. Militia troops converged upon villages, often burning the village, murdering adults, and enslaving girls. James, along with thousands of other boys, fled and trekked a harrowing route through sub-Saharan wilderness to Ethiopia refugee camps. Thousands died along the way, succumbing to the elements, wild animals, dehydration and malnutrition. Then, in 1992 the boys were again forced to flee and traveled hundreds of miles to reach Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya.
These boys were termed “The Lost Boys of Sudan” likened to the boys of Peter Pan. It is estimated that there were 26,000 boys who were forced out of their villages. Most of them, like James, were part of the Dinka tribe. Of those 26,000, as many as 15,000 perished along the way. 11,000 fortunate boys survived.
Many humanitarian groups and religious organizations played a heavy role in advocating for the resettlement of 3,500 "Lost Boys" to the United States. The boys were chosen by lottery. James was one of the “Lost Boys” to be selected. He was relocated to Colorado in 2001 and has since received an education, attended college and works in addition to supporting SSAORO. In 2006 James became a proud United States citizen.
Upon returning to Kakuma in 2005, James was emotionally overwhelmed by the poverty and suffering endured by the people of Southern Sudan. He felt compelled to help the children in his home village who, like himself, were orphaned.. With Michael Miyom, another of the “Lost Boys,” the dream of building an orphanage and a school in Pariang was born. Returning to the U.S. James founded SSAORO, a 501( c )(3) public charitable organization.
Today, along with a growing number of volunteers James has watched SSAORO provide much needed relief to the orphans of Pariang. While celebrating the opening of Gumriak Orphanage and Community School, James realizes that there is so much more to be done. James is confident that with the support of generous and hard working supporters, Gumriak will continue to grow and have a substantial impact in Pariang.