Sudan's Lost Boys Find Shelter In America

ByABC News
January 21, 2001, 4:01 PM

Jan. 21, 2001 — -- It was in a refugee camp in Kenya where the lost boys of Sudan who have survived war, famine and a remarkable journey were first told they would be offered a new life in America.

In the next year, more than half of the 7,000 young men will leave Africa, heading to homes throughout the United States, where they arrive awed by the abundance.

"I just read about their plight and it just overwhelmed me," says foster parent Deborah Heath. "It brought me to tears, hearing all they have been through, orphaned, lost their parents."

Heath and her husband, who already have five children, will care for three of the lost boys, including 18-year-old Boutros Kuony.

Kuony was only five years old when Sudan's civil war ripped his life apart, memories he tries to forget.

"Now if I think about it, it is too bad to me," he says. "It always gives me some sickness."

Kuony can't remember the last time he saw his parents. But it was the late 1980s when an Islamic government offensive forced thousands of children of other rebel Christians out of Sudan.

"Your mother is killed, or the father or brother, and the other relatives even," he says. "You have no interest to stay in that place."

So they walked from Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya little boys clinging to older boys, through 600 miles of starvation, heat and extreme danger.

"Some people, they dislike people walking like that," Kuony says. "They just kill whenever they saw you. They kill you. They shoot you."

The survivors ended up at the Kenyan refugee camp in 1992. There the boys were able to go to school and many learned English.

The Heaths do not have great wealth or much room in their modest home. But given where the lost boys came from, the Heaths know they have much to offer.

"It's been a month of thinking about them," says Deborah Heath. "Knowing their plight, and just love for them growing in my heart, and just seeing them get here was indescribable. I mean, it was just great that they finally made it here."