Jany Deng spoke of his horrific childhood experience surviving a civil war in Sudan and trying to adapt to life in Arizona. He was a guest speaker at Central Arizona College-Maricopa. Photo by Adam Wolfe

Jany Deng, former “Lost Boy” from Sudan, came to Central Arizona College Wednesday afternoon to share his story of adversity and triumph, and to educate students on what a refugee goes through when waiting for relocation.

His presentation was part of a Lunch and Learn program on the Maricopa campus.

Deng was 7 years old when the Sudanese civil war forced him to flee his village and trek to Ethiopia. He joined approximately 500 other children on a journey to find refuge in the neighboring country. However, due to starvation, disease, militants and predators, only 20 of the 500 children he left with made it to Ethiopia.

“We left our cows and just started walking,” Deng said. “We didn’t know where we were walking. We had 4 year olds and 3 year olds to take care of. The 11 year olds became the leaders.”

After three months of surviving the elements, Deng made it to Ethiopia. His problems weren’t solved, though, as a civil war broke out in Ethiopia, and the “Lost Boys” were forced to seek refuge again.

The majority of the boys ended up in Kenya. From there, the United Nations got involved and tried to relocate as many of the boys as they could.

“I was one of the first ones to get to come to U.S. in 1995,” Deng said. “After all that, I was one of the lucky ones.”

The “Lost Boys” were scattered across the globe. Some went to Australia and Europe while others ended up in the United States.

Deng and his brother were sent to Phoenix. Deng was placed with a foster family while his brother, who was over 18, was placed in the workforce.

“My brother had a lot of issues,” Deng said. “We weren’t living in the same place, so things got hard for him real fast. The trauma stays with you. Whether it is a car accident or anything, trauma stays with you.”

Like many of the boys from Sudan, the trauma proved to be too much for Deng’s brother. An altercation with police led to his death.

Since this event, Deng has dedicated his life to helping Sudanese refugees through the trauma. His organization, Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development, assists refugees with assimilation into society and promotes the value of an education.

“We came into the United State with nothing from where we come from,” Deng said. “We have achieved 85 percent of us graduated from either community college level or university with a degree.”

Deng received a bachelor’s degree in business from Arizona State University and is working on his MBA. He has made one trip back to Sudan, but another civil war has prevented further trips.

To learn more about the Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development, visit http://www.lbcld.org.

Photo by Adam Wolfe
Photo by Adam Wolfe