Local “Lost Boy” Reflects on Homeland as Independence Day for Southern Sudan Nears
Westminster MBA student focuses on education for better life
SALT LAKE CITY – Fleeing from Africa’s longest running civil war, Solomon Mading Awan traversed the southern Sudanese desert - by foot - in hopes of saving his life. His journey would lead from basic survival to a fight for independence, won, in large part, through education.
At just eight years old, with no parents or relatives to guide his way, Awan fled to Ethiopia with thousands of other children in 1987 to avoid the bloodshed in his home country.
When war broke out in the place where he sought out peace, Awan again walked with thousands of other boys to a refugee camp in Kenya. He witnessed hundreds of friends die along the gruesome trail.
“The life in you says keep going,” Awan recalled. “I had to make a decision, sit and die or keep walking.”
Awan eventually made it to the refugee camp in Kenya where he stayed for nearly nine years. He then resettled to the United States as part of the “Lost Boys” program.
Fast forward 24 years later from his original trek, Awan is now married and residing in Utah with his five-month-old son, and is currently working on his MBA at Westminster College. On July 9, 2011, Awan will share in the celebration as his native homeland of Southern Sudan declares its independence. In January 2011, a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan was held with 98.83% of the electorate opting for secession.[i]
“I will always have an emotional connection to that place,” reflected Awan. “My grandparents, dad and siblings all died there…and my mother and sister still live there.”
In addition to connecting with his homeland, Southern Sudan, Awan has always had a strong connection to education. He knew that due to some of his disabilities he would not be able to do the physical labor required by many jobs, so having an education was critical.
“People always stressed the importance of education, so I decided that if I’m given a chance, I have to go to school. Education has meant a lot to me…none of my parents ever went to school. I also needed to have a way to support my family and me,” he explained.
Awan graduated from Horizonte High School in 2002 and received an A.S. degree from Salt Community College in 2005. He came to Westminster College in 2005, and graduated with a bachelor of science in business with a concentration in finance. He became a U.S. citizen in 2006. He currently works for Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) as a business analyst while working on his MBA at Westminster.
Throughout the years, Awan has focused on giving back to his native country by donating and sending school supplies to his country, and is now helping to build a school. Throughout his time at Westminster, he coordinated fundraisers to raise donations for his projects.
“I am now the managing director of the Southern Sudan Education for Change, which is designed to build a primary school in Dongchak, Payam, Duk County, Southern Sudan. With God’s help, I hope to be able to go back and help build the school,” he said.
When Awan arrived in the U.S., he was not only adamant about helping others and getting an education, but educating other people on the atrocities in Sudan.
“When we came to the U.S. as Lost Boys, we did not shut our mouths about what happened. We talked to lots of people, including senators and congressmen. The message of Sudan has been spread and they had to do something about it. That’s why there was finally peace in 2005,” he added.
Awan will join his family and friends on Saturday to celebrate the long-awaited independence of his homeland.
“There are nearly 3,000 South Sudanese refugees in Salt Lake City. There will be celebrations throughout Southern Sudan as well as locally,” he said.
Media Contacts: Krista DeAngelis & Arikka Von (801) 832-2682
July 7, 2011
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