Imagine you’re a young boy—maybe as young as three or four—separated from your family by civil war, traversing deserts and mountains with little food or water, no medical care, and no protection from wild animals.
Imagine watching hundreds of boys perish around you from hunger, disease, injury, and exhaustion. To most of us, it is unimaginable, but this was reality for “The Lost Boys of Sudan,” thousands of young boys who were separated from their families and forced to walk over a 1,000 miles in search of safe refuge.
In 2000-2001, approximately 3,800 Lost Boys and 85 Lost Girls were granted refugee status in the United States. Of that initial group, 85 Lost Boys resettled in Jacksonville, Fl. and the number quickly grew. When first arriving to the US, these young men needed instruction in basic daily tasks, such as how to walk across the street at a red light, how to use a can-opener and electrical appliances, such as lamps and stoves. And although it has been difficult, they have worked diligently to assimilate into American culture. Education, which is granted only to the wealthy in their native Sudan, has become a beacon of hope for these young men, many of whom worked two jobs to pay tuition expenses, while sleeping as little as two hours a night.
Because they had been malnourished for most of their lives and subjected to a variety of life-threatening illnesses and disease, most suffer from health and dental problems. For these reasons, Joan Hecht founded Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan Foundation in 2004, to assist with the medical and educational needs of the Lost Boys living both in the U.S. and Africa. With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and south of Sudan in 2005, efforts were expanded to include health, education, humanitarian aid and re-building projects in Southern Sudan.