Haroun Bakhit had nothing when he left his home in South Sudan in search of a better life.
“We had no cars, no shoes, no house,” Bakhit said. “We only left the dead behind us.”
Bakhit, like many of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” fled his war-torn village in Sudan to start a new life.
On Friday, Bakhit shared his story with the students at Gibbons Middle School in Westborough as part of the student council’s Water for South Sudan fundraiser.
“Water for South Sudan is a non-profit organization started by one of the Lost Boys of Sudan,” said Stacy Cohen, a staff adviser at the school.
The organization digs wells in peaceful areas of Sudan and promotes awareness about the importance of clean water, Cohen said. She said the students have been selling merchandise to raise money for the organization to help pay for a portion of one well (estimated to cost $15,000).
Student council member Sarah Boch said the group has raised about $2,500 of its $5,000 goal so far.
Boch said the students are also participating in a Water Challenge, where they drink water instead of soda or other beverages, and donate the money they would spend on that drink to the organization.
“You realize how much you drink each day and that a lot of people take water for granted,” Boch said.
Boch explained that the fundraiser was an idea that branched off from reading the book “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, which tells a story about a “lost boy” trying to find a home in Sudan.
“We learned to be thankful for the opportunities we have and to appreciate what we have at home,” Boch said.
Faculty adviser Eric Knight, who used to work with Bakhit, invited him to speak to the students about his life.
In 2000, at age 10, Bakhit said he traveled from town to town, working odd jobs before arriving in a refugee camp.
“When we reached the camp, we were safe,” Bakhit said. “I loved the refugee camp because even though there were no buildings, I was alive and could have fun.”
The camp separated boys and girls, with Bahkit in charge of a group of 36 young boys. Bakhit said it was his job to act as the group’s leader, and take care of the boys.
“As a group leader, it was hard for me,” Bakhit said. “I was a kid and I wanted to play basketball and soccer, but when you’re responsible (for the group), you’re depending on yourself.”
Bakhit told the students the first time he heard the term “Lost Boy” was in the refugee camp.
“I asked them, ‘Why do you call me a Lost Boy? My name is Haroun,’” Bakhit said. “They told me, ‘Lost Boy means you have no parents, that you have no one.’”
Bakhit said he spent six years at the camp, waiting for approval from the United Nations to go to the United States. During that time, he worked as a baker from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and went to school.
“I didn’t want to go to school,” Bakhit said. “My best friend, Jeremiah, said I can’t skip school, and I told him I needed to get a job so we could leave. Jeremiah said I could do both.”
Bakhit said he is now taking classes in college after graduating from high school in 2010. He said he came to the United States in 2006.
Although Bakhit misses his family and friends in Sudan, he said he is happy to live in the United States. He told the students a story about when he was a child, his mother told him she dreamt he lived in another country. He said he told her that would never happen.
“She told me sometimes life changes, and maybe one day you will end up in another place,” Bakhit said. “Finally I see my mom was right.”
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