During the second civil war that ravaged the country of Sudan between 1983 and 2003, tens of thousands of boys and girls, especially ones from the predominantly Christian section of Southern Sudan, were displaced or orphaned. Around 20,000 of these boys, most of whom were between the ages of three and ten, trekked hundreds of miles on foot through the desert seeking refuge in Ethiopia. Many perished.
After four years when the Ethiopian government was overthrown they were forced to flee again. However, as they approached the border of Sudan, the Sudanese troops opened fire on them and killed many of them. The survivors managed to make it to Kenya where the Red Cross provided food and shelter at refugee camps.
In 2001 approximately 3,800 of these “Lost Boys,” as they came to be known, arrived in the United States to live with volunteer families. A couple dozen of these refugees, now in their 20s and early 30s, have settled in the Cleveland, Ohio, area where they have been pursuing further education while working several jobs to support their family members who are surviving the ordeals of the refugee camps in Kenya or the dire poverty in their home villages in Sudan.
One of the Cleveland “Lost Boys” is Isaac Mabior Malong. In 2006 Isaac returned to his home village in Aweil, Sudan. He had to make the trip clandestinely through Uganda to avoid detection by the northern Sudan government which would have captured him. In Aweil he was able to visit his mother, two brothers and a married sister. The rest of his family had been killed or had perished from starvation or lack of potable water.
Before he returned to the United States the people of his village begged him to appeal to the people in America to help them obtain clean water. Their only source at the time was a river two hours away from the village and it was contaminated.
Isaac returned to Cleveland and, with the help of his sponsors, organized a fund raising campaign the purpose of which was to secure $60,000 to cover the cost of drilling four wells in Aweil before the spring of 2009.
The campaign is called “Isaac’s Wells” and its mission is on track thanks largely to the collaboration of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Foundation, the Diocesan Social Action Office, and Catholic Relief Services. Isaac spends part of his time building solidarity between the communities of Cleveland and Aweil by telling school students in Ohio about life in Sudan.
Anyone seeking further information about this powerful example of an advance in our Lord’s Kingdom should contact Sr. Mary Frances Harrington, CSJ at