Welcome fellow writers, and others interested in the power of words to change worlds.
"By the time I arrived [in Kakuma in 1993] there were 12,000 boys...The rest of the camp, many tens of thousands, were families or just women and children, mostly Sudanese but also Ethiopians and Eritreans." These are the words of Alephonsion Deng, one of three Sudanese men, who, along with his brother Benson Deng, and cousin, Benjamin Deng and their mentor, Judy Bernstein, wrote They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: the True Story of Three Lost Boys of Sudan (Public Affairs, 2005).
Recently, I interviewed the three young men, three Lost Boys of Sudan, who wrote about their experiences crossing the deserts of Sudan when they were only young boys, finding their way to Ethiopia and then living in a refugee camp in Kakuma, for more than ten years, before coming to the US in 2001.
"Why did you want to write this book?" I asked.
"There are many reasons," Alephonsion replied. "...When I first arrived in America...after what I had seen with my own eyes, and here I am in a new culture...I couldn't sleep. All the memories were coming back, and I could see them vividly. So, one night I got up...I wrote it down...that made a real difference. It felt like I had shared it with someone else, like I had pulled something from myself...and I began to think maybe I should be the one to educate people about what happened to me."
His brother, Benson, added another dimension to the story of their writing the book.
"It is tough to go back and write a story like that, but I have the story to tell and I have a reason to tell it because someone will understand. The conflict is still going on today, and it might bring it to the attention of people who don't know. I just had to collect the courage and try to put my effort into giving people this story."
And their cousin Benjamin, reflecting on his life, added: "I am a storyteller, I have to face things and share them with others...I think I was chosen by god to face those problems so I could come to this place and tell these stories and what caused them."
Their co-author, and mentor, Judy Bernstein explains why she was motivated to help them write this book: "I want the world to hear of their tragic and remarkable experiences and know what is happening in Sudan..." And just maybe, she muses, this book will help them fulfill their dreams of further education.
The power of story, the power of hope and change.
As the philosopher Hannah Arendt once wrote in Eichmann in Jerusalem, as long as there is one alive to tell the story, "this planet may remain a fit place for human habitation."