As LIRS’s Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy approaches, I am excited to share the experiences of some of the courageous new Americans that will be participating in the Academy. Mayom Bol Achuk, a former refugee from South Sudan who now lives in Maryland, will be one of these participants. In today’s post, Mayom writes how he has become an “agent for change” for others who are forced from their homes.
Mayom Bol Achuk writes:
I am part of the most recently resettled refugee groups known as Lost Boys of Sudan in America, a Dinka by tribe, and now a South Sudanese-American by nationality. I was born and raised, as were many boys of my age, to tend cattle and practice backyard hunting. Although modern education was alien to the culture I was brought up in, life was very interesting and fully enjoyable. When I was four years old, my family embraced Christianity and abandoned their ancestral gods.
In 1986, I started my education at my church school where I learned letters in my native language of the Dinka tribe. This church school was only meant for learning how to read the Bible in the Dinka language. There was no paper or chalk but only charcoal or small sticks that were used on animal skins or the dirt. After we were forced to flee Sudan in December of 1987, we went to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where we started our classes in English, Arabic, and mathematics. Educational supplies were scant. Two pupils shared one exercise book and pencil: each was split, and one eraser was shared.
In the Kenyan Kakuma refugee camp, the situation changed and we studied six additional subjects that were completely new to us. I started in third grade and reached twelfth grade before I finally left to resettle in the United States. In America, I thought I would continue high school but was told that I needed to go to college instead of high school since I was of college age. However, to meet the requirements for college admission, I had to take a GED exam. After I passed my GED exam I went to Grand Rapids Community College for my associate degree. After graduation, I transferred to Calvin College for another two years for my bachelor’s degree. I attended Liberty University for another two years of graduate studies. Right after Liberty University, I went to Eastern University for another graduate program before relocating back to South Sudan to help a nation and peacebuilding process and the fledging educational system.
I’ve worked hard since I came to the United States. I have been studying and often working two to three jobs to support myself, my family members in South Sudan, as well as help support the Sudanese community in America. While in South Sudan, I was working as a Joint Development Fund Coordinator for Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Dr. John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology. Unfortunately, I was not aware that the newly established government of South Sudan would eventually turn against the people and fail to deliver the much-awaited democratic system of governance there. Unequivocally, I opted to leave the country again due to fear for my life after being threatened five times at gunpoint in Juba, the capital city. I was evacuated back to the United States due to the current civil war in the newly independent Republic of South Sudan and have now decided to reside in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Since I can’t go back home under the current leadership, I am still part of the nation-building process and change for good governance in South Sudan. I hope change will come to South Sudan as soon as the current generation of former rebel commanders and old guards, who are now the national ministers, are gone.
In deciding to attend this training [LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy], I realized that I don’t have to be in South Sudan to bring change, solve my people’s problems, or advocate for change in the government of South Sudan. I can help form strong communities of Sudanese people in the areas where they have relocated. My goal for advocacy is to reduce or stop any government policy that creates another generation of child soldiers and increases refugee populations worldwide. I have dedicated myself to help other refugees feel welcomed in this great land of opportunity, just as I was welcomed. I will continue to constructively fight for the human rights of those who are still held hostage in oppressive political systems. I am not only honored to be selected as a participant in this Leadership Academy but want to be equipped as an agent of change for those who are currently in my previous situation.