'Lost Boy' Ajok ’11M Advocates for Children in 'Forgotten Corners of the World'

May 10, 2012

Dawn at the Gilo River, which flows between Sudan and Ethiopia, still haunts Ayuen Garang Ajok ’11M. "At dawn, we were attacked by Ethiopian rebels who were overthrowing the government of Mengistu Haile Merriam, an insurgent dictator. (The ambush) left the people no choice but to jump into the river to get away.” He watched in horror as thousands drowned or were eaten alive by crocodiles. He witnessed thousands drown in that river “like stones being chucked in the water.”

"The Gilo incident is still fresh as the morning dew, and I can still see, hear and smell the waters of that angry river,” Ajok told the Chestnut Hill Local (Philadelphia, Pa.), which recently featured the former Sudan refugee, who tells his story to raise awareness of human rights and social justice issues. As reported by Local contributor Sue Ann Rybak:

Ajok said in December 2000, as part of an initiative sponsored by the United Nations and the Lutheran Children’s Services, he came to the United States.

“Through God’s grace I was able to make it to the United States as one of the 'Lost Boys of the Sudan,'" he said. “I was grateful to feel safe and to know that I would have the opportunity to attend school.

“Through all these painful moments in life, I knew that someday I would find happiness. Indeed, my past is what has kept me going in life. It is when I look at the yesteryears that it helps me relate to what I am doing today and what I want to do in the future.”

Ajok never imagined he would graduate from high school, yet alone a university.

In 2011, he graduated from Arcadia University with a master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Since then Ajok has volunteered at GEM in Chestnut Hill. Ajok said GEM helps students in the United States understand social justice issues.

“Millions of people are suffering around the world whether through conflict-related issues or through environmental-related issues,” Ajok said. “I want people to understand that change is good for all of us. If we educate others about social justice issues then we are promoting acts of good governance and the rule of law.”

He wants to educate people on “issues concerning human rights violations so that they [governments and organizations] can help ordinary citizens of our world in this 21st century.” Many of these rights are United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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