Story Publication logo June 3, 2007



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Gabriel Deng, Koor Garang and Garang Mayuol, Southern Sudanese "Lost Boys" in the U.S., were forced...

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Multiple Authors

Jen Marlowe, for the Pulitzer Center

"The SPLM fought and gave us our independence. But we haven't seen them since then. They sit in Juba."

"We came back from the North, from Khartoum, when we heard about the peace agreement. We were happy about the peace. But we came back to nothing. No food, no health care, nothing."

These were some of the comments, at least the ones that Koor translated for me, from the elders that were gathered under a tree in the women's compound in Akon, waiting for more mosquito nets that Koor had purchased to arrive and be distributed.

Koor distributed sewing material earlier that morning.

"How was that for you?" I asked him.

"You see the people there, they are happy," he answered.

"But how was it for you?"


"Why sad?"

"It wasn't enough, not everybody could get some."

I didn't have to ask Koor how he felt after distributing the 50 mosquito nets from the 300 we purchased in nairobi. I knew the feeling would be echoed even more profoundly.

The guilt that has plagued Koor at not being able to do enough has been there from the moment we arrived. Every joyous moment, like his own homecoming celebration in his clan's village yesterday, is punctuated for these young men with that guilt. Broad as Koor's smile was as he stepped over the calf into the entrance of his village, I can imagine he was not only counting the celebrating throngs in amazement at their euphoria over the lost son's return--he was also assessing how inadequate that village's share of mosquito netting would be to protecting people from malaria.

Gabriel Bol said something similar during his homecoming celebration in Ariang, the day before. Kids met our car a good few miles down the road from the village, with an organized procession of marchers, bikers, a boy with a bullhorn and a girl with a drum. At first our plan was to drive the rest of the way to the village--it was the heat of the day. But suddenly Gabriel asked the driver to stop and got down and walked the remaining two miles or so to his village with the children.

"The children had no shoes," Gabriel Bol told me. "How could I sit in the car and ride when the kids are walking in the sun with no shoes? I had to walk with them."

Gabriel Bol's ecstatic homecoming was punctuated with grief as well as guilt. He suspected from meeting his uncle at the market in Akon, when the uncle would not reveal the fate of his parents and told him to wait until he arrived in Ariang to hear the news, that they were dead. It was confirmed in Ariang, though he had not heard the story of when and how. He did find siblings, though, and cousins and aunts and uncles. One uncle, his mother's brother, waited to greet him until the end, after all the people had presented themselves to him.

"I could be patient, because I knew you came home," he said. "The missing piece of my heart has been filled." Gabriel Bol put his own hand on his heart as he recounted the story to me. "I see you and I no longer have to grieve for my sister, your mother. She is alive in you."


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