They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky:
                 The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan


 

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  Benjamin Ajak

"I stayed in the Kakuma camp for many years and started my education. I soon learned how it goes in the refugee camp. Education is fine, but the food is not enough, only one half cup of corn meal a day. So you must choose. If you don't want an education you can have a business for your survival. If you want education you must live on the little bit of food that is given and eat only once a day. It is your choice whether you eat in the morning and stay hungry for the whole day or eat in the afternoon. My cousins and I managed this. We went to school and ate once a day in the evening. But reading was really difficult because there was a certain cloud because of hunger. It's black when you look at the words in the book. The black covers the words and you can't see because of that color in your eyes from the hunger."

Benjamin Ajak was born in 1982 in a village in Southern Sudan. His parents were pastoralists and subsistence farmers who raised cattle until a civil war broke out between Northern and Southern Sudan. In 1987 Benjamin's village was attacked. To escape death or induction into the Muslim army, at the age of five years, Benjamin fled alone into the night. Several days later he found his cousins, Benson and Lino, seven years old, and they joined the exodus that became twenty thousand boys fleeing a thousand miles across Africa's largest country. Facing lions, crocodiles and starvation, only a half survived, made it into Ethiopia, and became known to the world as The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys remained in Ethiopia for three years. In a fall from a tree, Benjamin sustained a serious leg wound and a piece of wood remained lodged in the bone, causing an infection that refused to heal. When a civil war broke out in Ethiopia they were run out of the country at gunpoint and forced to swim the Gilo River where two thousand lives were claimed by shooting, drowning or crocodiles.

The boys began the trek back across Sudan scavenging for food and dodging bombings, and all the other hazards they'd faced before. Benjamin, his leg even more seriously infected now, and his cousins Alepho, Benson and Lino were captured by the rebel army and taken to a training camp in the Natinga Mountains. Benjamin escaped, was captured and jailed. Each day he was caned in the morning and evening until five months later he escaped again, this time successfully.

Another long walk through deserts and mountains led him to Kakuma Refugee Camp, a barren wasteland in northern Kenya, but the safest place he'd been in years. The education in Kakuma was excellent. Benjamin studied English, math, science and history, but food was scarce, about one half cup of ground corn a day and the supply was often exhausted or stolen before the next ration. Benjamin remained in Kakuma from 1992 until 2001.

On September 11, 2001 Benjamin's first glimpse of America outside his plane window was the World Trade Towers on fire. His plane was diverted to Canada and he arrived two weeks later in San Diego. Since then Benjamin has explored many opportunities in America, from a wrapper at the Hillcrest Ralphs Grocery Store to a part in the Russell Crowe/Peter Weir movie, "Master and Commander." Holding a Class A licnese, from behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler, Benjamin has seen all 48 states. He now resides in San Diego and speaks full time to organizations and schools, sharing his amazing life and insights into surviving as a child of war and a newcomer to the U.S.


Copyright 2005 Public Affairs Books.

Lost Boys of Sudan

 


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They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky
Alephonsion Deng a
nd Lost Boys