The Lost Boys at Huntington Beach High

Benjamin and Benson, Lost Boys from Sudan at Huntington Beach High (March 2010)

Benjamin and Benson, Lost Boys from Sudan at Huntington Beach High (March 2010)

Last Thursday, this year’s HB Reads events came to a close, featuring three out of four authors of the book, They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky. All I can say is if you weren’t there, you really missed out.  Click here to see pictures from the event.

For many, Sudan is a country in Africa, as evidenced by a colored shape on a map. For those who had the privilege of being there in the Huntington Beach High School gym last Thursday, Sudan is known as the birth place, still sorely missed, of Benson, Benjamin, and others, the now grown men “Lost Boys” of Sudan. It is still hard to imagine all that they went through so early in life, surviving their journey out of Sudan against all odds, transitioning to life as refugees in Ethiopia, then Kenya, transitioning again to life in the U.S. There are no words to adequately describe what it was like to hear them tell their stories, encourage us to appreciate what we have, and use our opportunities to help bring peace to the ever-present homeland of their hearts, Sudan.

A couple of years ago the film Darfur Now was playing in theaters nationally, including one local to us in Irvine. OC for Darfur got permission from the theater’s manager to camp out in the lobby during screening times hoping that attendees might stop to chat with us at our table and choose to get more involved after having seen the film. That was the first time we met Jennifer Rojas, a Huntington Beach High School sophomore that year. Not yet possessing a driver’s license, her parents graciously drove her time and time again to attend our meetings in Newport Beach. When she got a driver’s license the next year, she continued to join us, able to drive herself. Now in her senior year of high school, she is still actively involved with us and over the years has volunteered at countless events we have held, not to mention helping us out with many of our Facebook posts.

Barbara, Peggy and Jennifer from OC For Darfur

Barbara, Peggy and Jennifer from OC For Darfur

Little did we at OCFD know that it was Jennifer, also an Orange County Human Relations intern, who encouraged HB Reads to select “They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky” as this year’s book. Several other books were nominated for consideration, but in the end, her suggestion won out, the result being that a lot of students and adults who might not otherwise know much about the suffering and the triumphs of the Sudanese people now have a better idea of what is going on in that country.

As we move forward, staying committed to difficult issues over the long haul, I think it is a deep belief in that which is unseen that will see us through. When we act according to what seems the right thing to do at the time, one never knows what else will develop down the road.

Our heartfelt thanks to HB Reads for doing such a great job in putting on this year’s events. Thanks to Benson, Benjamin and Judy for being there last Thursday to tell your stories in person. And thank you Jennifer for having been with us the past two and a half years. We will miss you in the fall when you leave for college!

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