An American Experience and Beyond
American Epiphany’s™ 2011 film project: creating a documentary on the ‘lost boys’ who were brought to Richmond, VA, what they have learned in America and how they are using their education and experiences gained here to bless their own people, Americans and others around the world.
American Epiphany™ will track the boys’ lives and plans for the future which include fundraising for mission trips to set up vocational centers in Southern Sudan to teach returning refugees and war victims self reliance and the entrepreneurial spirit that defines America’s heritage.
“Lost Boy” Manyang Reath became a victim of the Sudanese civil war when he was four years old. Before dawn, Northern soldiers descended on his home in Pochalla, chasing down and shooting the villagers and abducting women and children. Manyang’s uncle grabbed the little boy, threw him up on his shoulders and ran. After a long while they reached a shallow river and made it across but Manyang’s Uncle was hit by gunfire and he died still clutching Manyang in his arms.
Soldiers from the South’s “Sudanese People’s Liberation Army” (SPLA) saved Manyang, soon turning him over to other fleeing refugees who were heading to camps in Ethiopia . The journey was long and treacherous and many died. Their only food was mud and leaves; they had virtually no water so many were forced to drink their own urine. Starving lions and hyenas added to the danger.
Manyang remembers: “Most lost boys were trying to help other lost boys who had nobody to care for them…walking in a group.” He was mistreated by people who took him in. He became a servant. One of his worst moments was being bitten by a cobra whereupon “family members” electrocuted him, to drive out the snake venom. His hand still carries burn scars today.
Manyang and thousands of others spent years in refugee camps-scrabbling for every morsel of food. But Manyang was also one of the lucky ones. He was chosen to become part of the US resettlement program and arrived in Richmond, VA just 3 years ago. Catholic Charities met him at Richmond International Airport and he was soon installed at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls.
Though he spoke no English, within two weeks he was registered for ninth grade, graduating J.R. Tucker high school within 3 years. Now 22, Manyang was first an honor student at J. Sargent Reynolds Community College while working full time. He transferred in fall 2010 to the University of Richmond. He shares an apartment with two other “Lost Boys.” Manyang has had no word about his family though he continues to look for them.
Manyang and other lost boys want to spread the principles of freedom they have learned in this country to their people in Sudan as they prepare to implement the historic vote in January 2011 approving an independent Southern Sudan. The project also fulfills the mission of American Epiphany by using a film of the project to inspire younger Americans as they understand the relevance of freedom and liberty by seeing them through the eyes of those who have lived without these principles.