"Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. For what the world needs is more people who have come alive."
-Howard Thurman

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How A Mud Figurine Taught Me About Hope

 Manyang and me at one of his fundraisers for Humanity Helping Sudan that I had the honor of hosting.  Afterwards, I helped sell these figurines that Manyang still makes to raise money for his cause, and I learned the story behind them.  Who knew a mud figurine could be so inspirational?

During my year of service, I had the honor of working with the Humanity Helping Sudan project, which seeks to provide aid and assistance to the Sudanese Diaspora in the Gambella region of Ethiopia along the Eastern border of Southern Sudan. I got to know the project's founder, Manyang Reath, a young man who just exudes warmth and energy, with a contagious smile and a vivacious spirit that is immediately ascertainable to all those around him. On first impressions, you would probably never guess that a man who laughs so easily and radiates such a distinct sense of amiability has had a past filled with struggles that most of us can hardly imagine.
When Manyang was 4 years old, he became a victim of the Sudanese civil war. Before dawn, Northern soldiers descended on his home in Pochalla, chasing down and shooting the villagers and abducting women and children. Manyang's uncle grabbed the little boy, threw him up on his shoulders and ran.  After a long while they reached a shallow river and made it across but Manyang's Uncle was hit by gunfire and he died still clutching Manyang in his arms.

Manyang was able to escape and travel with other “lost boys” to a refugee camp. Orphaned and alone, with no food or water, no means of survival, and no one to care for him but his fellow lost boys, hope was dim. It would seem that he had nothing. But even then, he decided not to give up. He used the mud on the grounds of the camp to fashion small animal figurines, and sold them in exchange for food and water....and he survived. 

Eventually he was rescued and brought to the Virginia home for Girls and Boys in Richmond, where he lived until matriculating in to the University of Richmond where he is currently pursuing his bachelor's degree. Yes, his future now looks bright- but even the most hopeless situation, Manyang found “something” in “nothing,” and his story teaches us a valuable lesson- one that transcends to all of us in our times of struggle. There is always something. 

Congratulations to Manyang on being a finalist for the VH1 "Do Something" award! (watch the video from VH1 here: http://www.vh1.com/video/misc/827784/do-something-award-finalist-manyang-reath-kher.jhtml#id=1691749).  This is what I call BEAUTIFUL. 

The three figurines that came home with me :)

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