The term “Lost Boys of Sudan” applies to some 26,000 young people forced away from their families and villages in southern Sudan during the country’s 20-year civil war, which officially ended two years ago. They trekked hundreds of miles, with thousands dying of starvation, dehydration and drowning. Some were shot by military forces and others were eaten by animals. About thirty-eight hundred made their way to the United States. One of them is John Madut, once a child soldier in what was then a rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Voice of America’s Cole Mallard spoke with Madut, who now lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cole asked him what it means to him personally to be one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Madut said the label is one to be proud of because it implies he, and the others, survived being separated from their parents and “lost from the country.”
When Madut was in Ethiopia In 1990, at about the age of nine, he converted from his traditional religion to Catholicism. He said he converted because he learned that there was a God, “but before, I [didn’t] know there’s a God. We were worshiping our traditional idols.
Madut says his ultimate goal here in the United States is “to have a better life for myself and to be an educated person.” He said he’s going to school now and wants to let people know why he’s in this country and why he is called one of the Lost Boys. He says he wants to use his identity to help other people, as America helps him. He also wants to help people in his own country; he says with the advantage of freedom and education in the United States, “we were born to change the world,” to give the disadvantaged the opportunity “to be in the good life like now in America.” He adds that “there is so much freedom, but back there in the Third World there’s no freedom.” Madut adds that although he is now an American citizen, he “will still be helping people, like Americans help other people.”
Madut says he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to return to Sudan permanently, saying he visited his native village and “I saw there’s nothing good…. There’s no water, there’s no roads, there’s no clinic, and there’s no schools for children.”
But Madut holds a positive attitude about Sudan’s future: “I hope for my country to be independent, to be a free country with no war, and to get development so we’ll have schools, hospitals and everything that human beings like to have.”
Madut says despite his personal efforts to help his family by sending money, etc., his helping his country is ineffective without government support and effective pressure from the international community. He says, “Although you send a thousand dollars a month, it’s still not doing anything.”
ONE SIMPLE GOAL
Madut says he’ll continue to do whatever he can to help the Sudanese people: “My aim that I’m dreaming about…is to help my country with clean water.”