Monday, April 23, 2007


Dear Fine Institutions of Education,

This morning I had breakfast with a young man. Let’s call him "A". He told me of his education in Africa. Sometimes, when his family had $50 he could study for one semester. They did not often have $50. I read a paper that he wrote. In it he spoke of that time. He said he lusted for education. He told me how grateful he is that he can now study every single day, every single semester.

(I think of other boys I have known at his age. They may have lusted, but it was not usually for education.)

Coming to the United States as a UN refugee in 2004, this young man began to learn English, to write papers, to enjoy the benefits of mandatory public education. For him this was a great gift.

After breakfast this morning, my husband left to take this guy to a small junior college to participate in an open house and, later this afternoon, to try out for a soccer team. Perhaps, soccer will provide the avenue by which "A" may continue his education.

"A" has given me permission to let you read an essay that he wrote. It is not perfect grammatically. It may lack polish. However, those things might betray an institution if they were to use those criteria or the results of a standard testing measure to exclude this person from participating in the academy. If I were an institution seeking students. I would seek this boy.

I am a survivor

I woke in the morning, heard the sound of soldiers banging on the door trying to get in the house. Daddy told us, “kids go under the bed”, I didn’t see my father again for two years. I’m one of the many survivors who endured the 1998 civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo; I didn’t see anything but the importance of surviving from the war.

I survived in the most disastrous war despite the important of names that brought hatred, and killing between I and Congolese civilians and soldiers. Because of my name, "A", I was buried into a shadow of death; just because the name I had represent me and the rebel. Most people labeled me names like “rebel”, “kanyamurege”, and “cockroach”, to determine rebellion between them and me. Because of the birth name I carried, people began to attempt to kill me. I was a survivor of the name tragedy when people tried to kill me; my name brought suffering, lonely, and painful in my life at that time. I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t a survivor. I was one of the scared boys who always thought I can die today or tomorrow but was still standing and afraid of dying. Just because I carried that name I was in the very dangerous moments that allowed people to come and try to burn me alive. When I mean burn, that’s they were trying to catch me and put gasoline all around my body and start burning me. For example “American barbeques meats” but I was supposed to be the meat who got barbeque with gasoline around me, but nothing happened because I ran away from them. The reactions made me start thinking of what strategy can I use to be able to survive.

Nothing helped me to survival in 1998 war except what I learned and what I had been told by my parents. “Son, never put your self first, but last.” My parents wanted me to understand society life matters not movements that were going on. As always taught to me "patience and self control is always the first goal to survive situations" I used that same goal to protect myself and my family to stay away from getting killed. I was patience that time, escaping troubles and being around people who knew me; and always remembering the word, patience and self control, is the key in my life as a survivor.

I used self control to be a very skeptical young boy to people around me and to protect my family at the same time. I was about to get poisoned by my own friends. They put soda, a very strong African poison, into my food I was about to eat that food but someone told me to not. I lost the beautiful trust that I had for my friends just because of that step and I couldn’t trust my friends any more. I was automatically being skeptical before doing or taking a step. For example, I lost my beloved once just because of lack of self control and patience in their step; they were burned by Congolese civilians.

Finally I came to discover one important key to survive, faith, I saw myself getting on my knees, trying to put my faith into God’s hands but still scared of getting killed. Faith helped me to stand and look forward to survive the war. By the grace of God, I am a survivor. No matter what situations comes into my life I will succeed and continue be a survivor.

I find this all very amazing. Sitting across the breakfast table from a young, bright-eyed man who enjoys bacon and eggs, liked seeing a raccoon, and teases my son because he couldn't remember the words "A's" mother told him to tell me, I would be tempted to forget, that this person grew up hiding from from rebel bands instead of participating in marching bands. But that difference is the very thing that "A" will use to survive and succeed in this culture. Perhaps one day, he will lead us and we will all benefit from the inner strength that he has to offer.


P.S. Got a scholarship? I've got the recipient for you.


cadh 8 said...

What an awesome and inspiring story. Is "A" one of the lost boys of Sudan? We watched a documentary on the Lost Boys and it was very interesting. The juxtiposition (sp?) of their struggles in Africa to their struggles here and all they went through. Really amazing. I hope that A is able to find a school that recognizes his drive and passion and helps him along his way to increasing his education.

Anne G G said...

This is a stunning story. Dad was telling me when I called about their weekend together at the school . . . I hope all went well. Certainly "A" deserves a scholarship, and I've read many an essay in my time with perhaps better grammar and composition (PERHAPS), but with not nearly so much importance and beautiful articulation. My best to this young man.