'Lost Boy' hopes new movie will turn eyes to South Sudan

1412344933000-abrahammajaklostboy1Abraham Madit Majak is a full-fledged American now. He speaks fluent English, holds down a job at Johnson Controls, attends Lansing Community College and is thinking about buying a house and getting married. But Majak, 29, occupies a unique niche in world history. He came to Lansing in 2001 from Sudan, part of a group of unaccompanied minors and young men who became known as “Lost Boys.” About 3,800 arrived as refugees in the United States in the late 1990s through 2001; about 135 came to Lansing. Cared for by foster families and embraced by church groups, they sometimes struggled to learn English, cope with frigid Michigan winters and adapt to the pace, technology and peculiarities of modern American life. “It was a culture shock,” Majak said of going to live with foster parents Chuck and Judi Roose in Holt. “It was really hard, but I adapted. They taught me a lot.” Majak will relive those days when he goes to see “The Good Lie,” a movie opening in some cities this weekend that gets a wider release later in the month. It stars Reese Witherspoon as a job placement counselor helping young refugees in Kansas City. The story’s fictional, but was developed in consultation with real-life Lost Boys like Majak. “When I saw the trailer of it, it is exactly the way we were,” Majak said. He said he thinks the movie, which has gotten mostly favorable reviews, is a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds people of the Lost Boys’ journey. “People forgot about the Lost Boys,” he said. “People will be wondering, ‘Where are the Lost Boys after all these years?'” But Majak also hopes the movie will bring attention to the fact that strife continues today. The Republic of South Sudan — the area where Majak was born — became an independent nation in 2011. But his and others’ hopes for peace were dashed last year when fighting began anew after a failed coup d’etat. “It will help people learn the story of the crisis that is going on in South Sudan right now,” Majak said. Besides work and school, Majak is a devout Christian and president of the Sudanese congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansing. A U.S. citizen since 2007, he is determined to lend a hand to others who remain in South Sudan. Majak spent a month and a half in South Sudan, visiting his home village of Majok-Chedhiop near the city of Yirol this summer. Majak and his brother, Isaac Matit Majak, founded the nonprofit Rescue South Sudan Village People, or RSSVP, in 2010 to build a community well in Majok-Chedhiop, where clean drinking water was often hard to come by. The group raised $10,000 and the well has been completed. Now, they want to raise $80,000 to build a school. Abraham scouted and planned for that project while on his trip. “We should be the voice of people who are suffering in South Sudan, who don’t have basic education, water and food,” he said. Their determination is born of devastation. Majak’s family was destroyed by the civil conflict in Sudan during the late 1980s and early 1990s. While he and Isaac fled together, they had no idea what happened to their seven other siblings or their parents. They walked east first to Ethiopia, where they lived in a camp ridden with disease and short of food. “Most of us have seen horrible things,” he said. Political unrest in Ethiopia during 1991 drove them back at gunpoint across the border into Sudan, a dangerous river crossing. Those who survived walked back across Sudan, then southeast into Kenya. Their journey took months. In 1,000 miles of walking, they endured attack from wild animals, rival tribes and government armies. In Kenya, the boys were settled in the Kakuma refugee camp, where they were able to attend school but were often short of food. In all, they eventually determined that six of the nine siblings in their family had died. For a while, they believed their mother was dead, too, but they reunited with her in Kakuma. She encouraged the boys to move to the United States when they got the chance. Today, Isaac lives in the Boston area. He returned to South Sudan to get married and now has one child and another on the way. Abraham Majak is thinking about buying a house in Lansing and returning to Yirol to marry as well. His mother encouraged that when he saw her this summer. And he also will keep working for the welfare of those who still are in South Sudan. “As Lost Boys, we have had opportunities,” he said. “We have education and are doing well. This is the kind of blessing we can use to help others.” See the movie • “The Good Lie,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Arnold Oceng • In limited release this weekend, which does not include any Lansing theaters; expected to open wider later this month Learn more Rescue South Sudan Village People, is online at www.rescuesouthsudan.org and also has a Facebook page. *Source lansingstatejournal]]>

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