Gabriel Bol Deng, a former Lost Boy of Sudan, will speak in Spain Auditorium at CBU on Thursday, April 3 at 3:00 p.m.
Deng was 10 years old when North Sudanese Murahileen militiamen led a violent attack on his village of Ariang in South Sudan in 1987. He fled, unaware of his family’s fate, embarking on a four-month journey, crossing the Nile River and untold miles of desert, eventually reaching the Dimma Refugee Camp in Ethiopia.
There, at the age of 13 and inspired by a dream he had of his parents, he began his formal education, which involved writing on cardboard with pieces of charcoal under a tree. Yet, just four years later, he was forced to flee from violence once again, leaving Ethiopia and traveling on foot to Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, where he completed his primary and secondary education.
In 2001, he came to the United States as a part of the Refugee Resettlement Program. He would go on to earn an Associate of Arts degree in Mathematics and Sciences from Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY in 2004 and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics Education from Le Moyne College, also in Syracuse, in 2007.
In May of 2007, Deng returned to his home village of Ariang for the first time in over 20 years. After witnessing that little had changed, with students studying in make-shift schools under trees and without trained teachers, instruction materials, or basic supplies, he became determined to transform the poor learning environment into a permanent learning facility.
Upon his return to the US, Deng began a modest fundraising effort by selling t-shirts. Always believing he could “move mountains with the power of hope,” he has since gone on to create the HOPE for Ariang Foundation, a non-profit organization that completed the construction of Ariang School in May 2011, and now educates 500 children, including 130 girls, under its roof.
Deng’s visit to Memphis is sponsored by Rhodes College International Studies and GlobeMed at Rhodes College, where he will speak on April 2 at 6:00 p.m. in Blount Auditorium. Christian Brothers University is proud to host this additional lecture on April 3, which is free and open to the public.
“Gabriel’s story of his violent separation from his parents and village of Ariang in South Sudan at the age of 10, survival as a refugee, heroic efforts to gain an education, and commitment to help others, provides important testimony regarding the crisis in the Sudan and inspires us with the power of one hopeful and determined individual to effect positive change,” says Dr. Neal Palmer, Chair of CBU’s Department of History and Political Science. “His talks and film inspire audiences and his organization, HOPE for Ariang, has created a school in Ariang that serves as a base for activities designed to uplift an entire community.”