‘Lost boy’ from Sudan shares story
Mountain View Middle School seventh-graders recently heard the story of Peter Nihany, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, as part of the study of Africa. (Courtesy Photo)
Teacher Andrew Caulton said he learned of Nhiany’s story several years ago, when a student came into class, “talking about the most amazing guest speaker,” he said.
“It was a fleeting conversation,” Caulton recalled, but it gave him some food for thought, and he eventually called Nhiany to see if he would come to speak to his MVMS students.
“I thought it would give the students a real picture of Africa,” Caulton said, “and act as a bridge between the content in a book or magazine and the reality of it.”
Nhiany returns every year to MVMS to share the story of his journey of more than 1,000 miles on foot when he was just 9 years old, with none of his family by his side.
“The life that I led was not full of candy and staying up past my bedtime,” Nhiany said. “It wasn’t the life that kids have here, in this great country.” Nhiany said his experience – of walking for several months at night, crossing into different countries, not knowing where he would find food or water or whether he would be safe – made him stronger.
“We got used to it,” he said. “If you don’t expect something better, you learn to be strong.”
Nhiany said students have been extremely receptive to hearing what he has to say, and they asked a lot of important questions.
“How many of them could survive that situation, of not being able to be with your family or your mom?” Nhiany said. “What they’ve learned from me has given them an understanding of what life was really like.”
Now 33 and a full-time student at Granite State College, Nhiany also has a part-time job at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center, assisting troubled youth.
He also part of Life for Sudan, an organization established in 2006 to sponsor education in Uganda, and assist Sudanese refugees in becoming U.S. citizens.
“I love to work, I love what I do,” he said, and hopes to continue to motivate the young people he meets.
“I tell them – go do something, go to school, get a job, help your community, but don’t just sit and do nothing,” he said.
After Nhiany’s presentation at MVMS, students wrote him letters, telling him what his presentation meant to them.
“Some of their letters made me cry,” he said. “I didn’t know that I made such a difference to them.”
“I could never imagine the hardships that you and your ‘brothers’ went through,” wrote Liam Morrisey.
Hannah Tate wrote, “I cannot begin to grasp the horrors of what you went through.”
One student thanked Nhiany for being a good and inspirational person, and one said Nhiany made him realize how lucky he was to live in America.
“It really connected them emotionally,” Caulton said. “They were able to connect with him as a 9-year-old kid – the feedback was amazing.”
Nhiany said he would like to reach out to other school communities to share his story.
“Kids need mentors, they need people to be there for them,” he said. “If they hear from people like me, who have had difficulties, they may make better choices.”
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