No longer lost

Father’s Day event will help children of Sudan

By Anthony Hinkelman
Sun contributing writer

This coming Father’s Day families have the opportunity to assist those less fortunate in Southern Sudan. The project: “Walk for Water and Wishes” is the brainchild of Manlius Pebble Hill student, Haviland Hawkins who was inspired to aid Sudan several years ago when her brother got her involved.

Hawkins would attend meetings with the Lost Boys of Sudan, a name for the survivors of the ongoing conflicts in the country, where they shared their stories. One of the boys talked about how his brother died from drinking dirty water.

“Something as basic as clean drinking water is something we take for granted,” she said.

“Walk for Water and Wishes” is having its first year run, where participants walk for sponsorship of charities or offer donations themselves. The money goes either into a specific project in Sudan or into a general fund which will be split among them.

“Since a lot of the Boys don’t have fathers or parents, we’re hoping that people will be able to bring their fathers to Green Lakes,” said Hawkins, “so they’ll be able to walk with their families in support of those that don’t have them.

“It’s really about raising awareness in whats going on in Sudan. Everyone’s supporting everyone,” she said.

Hawkins is backed by not just her Sudanese colleagues, but also St. Vincent de Paul  Church, on Syracuse’s east side.

St. Vincent’s has been assisting South Sudan since the Lost Boys first came to America. The decades of civil war, from the 17-year-long 1956 civil war to the recent second civil war started in 1985, have unraveled any chance of a stable community or life there.

“More than 3,500 young men…were separated by war from their parents. Many were forced to fight the war as teenagers,” explained Carl Oropallo, attorney and treasurer for St. Veronica. According to him, many of the boys were forced over the border to Kenya where they survived before coming to America.

“[St. Vincent’s] is the original sponsor of many Sudanese Lost Boys from 2001 until recently,” he said. According to Oropallo, this involves helping them with everything from their basic needs, such as food and shelter, to getting them an education, insurance, and even a driver’s license.

The Boys, now men, have since done their part, along with the church and other supporters, to aid the torn South Sudanese villages they once called home. They all invested in their own individual projects which target different issues in the area.

Lueth Yak, one of the Lost Boys, has begun the project of creating a shelter for the many orphan children wandering his country. Yak found his purpose after revisiting his native land for a year in 2008.

“I discovered we have a lot of children that are orphans from the war really suffering…without anybody whose taking care of them,” he said.

“I decided I would try my best to help these kids out in any way possible, at least to give them a place to sleep or some food to eat. That is when I came up with my program.”

Yak plans to build this shelter on his own land in Sudan. From there, he’ll work with supporters to bring the lost children there to be cared for.

Gabriel Bol Dang, another Lost Boy, is working on building a school in his village of Ariang. Bol Dang found that many of the village’s youth, particularly girls, could not attend school as they had to spend most of their time getting water and other resources to sustain the village. Cholera was also prevalent in his village, killing of many of the children, as a result of the unclean water which they worked so hard to get. “Last year we built six wells in the village for the kids and their families,” said Bol Dang. This dramatically reduced the high rate of cholera-related deaths and allowed many of the children to finally get a proper education. No school building, however, existed there at the time to house students. A school doesn’t need to have structure though, Bol Dang said, as it can exist as long as there is a gathering of people wanting to learn.

Nontheless, Bol Dang began a project to build a sustainable school structure.

“We’re almost done building the walls of the school. Now we’re raising money for roofing,” he said.

Projects such as these will be aided by those attending “Walk for Water and Wishes.”

“We’re hoping for at least 250 to 300 participants,” said Hawkins.

The walk is planned for June 20th  from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There’s a $25 participation fee which will include a t-shirt. Visit
walkforwaterandwishes.com for more information on the event and the individual projects.

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