Imagining the horrors of war is not easy for us in America. Especially a war on our own soil. Yes, we endured a civil war once, but that was a long time ago. We convince ourselves it could never happen again and with that false assurance, we often tune out the news of war in other countries and struggle to relate to what the victims of war are going through. We hope this story helps us better understand the plight of people caught in conflict and war, and moves us to act on their behalf.
There’s a civil war going on right now in Sudan and it’s affecting the lives of over one million people, tens of thousands of whom are fleeing into South Sudan. These are people just like us, going about their daily lives raising families, working, and going to school. Suddenly, war breaks out and they’re forced to abandon their lives and flee to safety. In the midst of the chaos, many families became separated. Three months later, many still are.
Young people at universities, for instance, were forced to flee without the safety and comfort of their families. Some were able to join their loved ones en route out of the country while others had to find a way out on their own.
Students like “A”, who along with friend, “T”, fled their university together and made their way into South Sudan. Last month, some of the MATTER team had the privilege of sitting down with these two amazingly resilient young women who wanted to share what they had been through. They want the world to know what is happening and that people are suffering. They’re hoping we don’t tune them out. They’re counting on us to help.
“The way of getting out of Sudan was very hard. We saw dead bodies, things we’ve never seen before…” recounted “A”, her face betraying no emotion as she tells her story. “The way we came to Juba (South Sudan), it was horrible. We were seated in the cargo plane and oxygen was not provided us. We didn’t have enough oxygen to breath…Some people fainted, some got sick. We saw people suffering. We couldn’t do or say anything about it. We just prayed.”
Arriving in South Sudan, they were tired, hungry, and afraid. And it became apparent very quickly that the country wasn’t equipped to deal with the number of people flooding into it. Thousands of people were living on the airport grounds, some in make-shift housing and others huddling in groups together for safety. Food and water were scarce. Fear and desperation were palpable. “People were starving a lot…it was a bad situation…we just stayed there and prayed. But as you can see, we’re here now.”
The ”here” where the girls found refuge is the Luol Deng Foundation (LDF), an organization founded by former NBA All-Star Luol Deng and dedicated to helping youth in South Sudan realize their limitless potential through sport and development. Though not a relief organization, LDF is situated perfectly to help with the overwhelming numbers of people fleeing into South Sudan. Partnering with Feed My Starving Children and MATTER, LDF is poised to provide 500,000 emergency meals to the effort. The food is purchased, packed and ready to be shipped to South Sudan. They just need financial help to cover the $50,000 shipping cost.
While the organization waits for the food to be shipped from America, LDF continues to help the young people arriving at their door daily in need of food and shelter. When “A” and “T” arrived, they knew LDF was an answer to prayer.
“We thank God because the Luol Deng Foundation welcomed us with a big hug. They were like, ‘We’re so happy you guys are safe’ with a big hug. Can you imagine? It was such a nice thing.”
As it has always been, LDF is committed to helping young people find purpose and meaning in their lives – even those young people fleeing the trauma of war. Now LDF is asking for our help. Would you consider making a financial gift to help ship the 500,000 desperately needed meals to South Sudan? The need is urgent. Every day that goes by, more people die. LDF will get the food to those who need it most; we just have to get it to South Sudan. Please donate today!
See “A” and “T” and other young people share their stories of what it is like to flee a war zone and find refuge at the Luol Deng Foundation.
These are their stories.