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'Lost Boys of Sudan' visit Schalmont

May 2, 2016

Lost Boys of SudanSchalmont hosted a special pair of visitors April 15 when Sebastian Maroundit and Mathon Noi, two of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” characterized in the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, shared their experiences with the Schalmont students and community.

As a New York State module book, for the past three years, A Long Walk to Water has been a required reading text for seventh graders at Schalmont. Though the novel is fiction, it is based on the true story of children who escaped to Ethiopia from their war-torn village in Sudan.

When war erupted in Ethiopia in 1991, Maroundit and Noi were two of many children who spent a year walking across a desert to a refugee camp in Kenya.

The pair recounted the harrowing tale of their  journey of 1,000 miles across the desert and then a river to escape wars.

"I was shot three times," Noi said. "We saw our friends die."

 Noi and Maroundit were of the refugees selected in 2001 to resettle in the United States. They were brought to Rochester in 1998.

"I am so thankful to come to this country," Noi said. "This country saved my life."

Over the years, the cousins returned to their village in an attempt to find lost family members. Maroundit was able to locate a cousin and help him go to school.

"The children of the village were asking 'what about us?'" Maroundit said. "Education is life. They are asking for life. Perhaps God saved our lives so we can save lives."

The two decided to do something to help out their village. They now head up the non-profit Building Minds in South Sudan based out of Rochester that works to build schools in their former village in South Sudan and promote educational opportunities for girls in that country.

"Children walk four or five miles a day to come to our school," Maroundit said.

They run the largest school in the country with 817 students in attendance.

Noi and Maroundit came to the school at the request of students who read A Long Walk to Water. Retired Schalmont High School Principal Ted Avgerinos also works with Building Minds and was able to help coordinate the appearances.

“Each year, students engage with this narrative and ask to sell wristbands to raise money for Water for Sudan, Inc.,” Schalmont English teacher Elisa Pepe said. “This year, when the opportunity presented itself, the students wanted to go a step farther and work to build a school in Sudan as well as bring two of the ‘Lost Boys’ to Schalmont.”

Students in grades 7-9 who have all read the book worked together on the publicity for both the in-school and evening community event as well as the fundraising effort and Schalmont senior Aby Tys created a public service announcement.

“There's nothing like the spirit of a seventh grader when it comes to taking up a cause. They have a strong desire to help. Strong enough, apparently to last for several years,” Pepe said. “The committee consists of two ninth graders, three eighth graders, and four seventh graders. Their excitement and commitment to this project has been a pleasure to watch.”

Their fundraising efforts allowed them to purchase a window for one of the buildings currently being errected.

If you are interested in making a contribution, donations can be sent directly to:

Building Minds in South Sudan
5880 Pittsford-Palmyra Road
Pittsford, New York 14534-2444

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