“If you don’t get nervous, then how can you connect to people?” Dut Bior said. Bior presented in the Bill and Vieve Gore Auditorium on Aug. 18 during SAC’s kick-off of its Taboo Talk series.
At just five years old, Bior and over 27,000 other boys under the age of 10 fled the rebel occupation of Sudan and made a three-month-long journey to Ethiopia.
“How did we know which direction to take?” asked Bior. “It was obvious—where the sound of gunfire wasn’t coming from.”
Only 3,000 of the boys would make it to Ethiopia and then to the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya, already home to 170,000 refugees.
There, Bior said the struggles did not end.
Many of the “Lost Boys” were orphaned. The camp was home to suicides and a lack of resources.
At Kakuma, Bior took advantage of the few educational opportunities available to him, which eventually landed him in Utah, where he would go on to graduate from Salt lake Community College.
However, Bior found moving on wasn’t as easy as a change of scenery.
“I remember these moments where my feet were bleeding and I couldn’t feel it,” he said. “I was traumatized in the back of my mind but couldn’t feel it.”
In an effort to find peace, Bior made it his mission to create opportunity for the “Lost Boys” still in Ethiopia.
He started by helping pay for fellow “Lost Boy,” Malaak Ayuen, to complete his education in Africa. Since then, Bior’s charity has grown into the non-profit organization SOAP International, which provides scholarships to 12 other Sudanese orphans.
By raising awareness, Bior said he hopes the organization will continue to grow as his story represents a worldwide issue.
In 2014, there were over 19.5 million refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. A fact that may not come as surprising considering that only 11 countries are not involved in some form of conflict, according to the Institute of Economics and Peace reports.
Last September, Sarah Hirning, a senior marketing major and president of SAC, said she decided to broaden Taboo Talks to include global issues, which Westminster students like Kelson Golt, took notice of.
“The political situation in Sudan is not a pretty situation,” said Golt, first-year undeclared student. “Things like that are really important for people to realize what’s going on in the world around them, not just what’s ‘going on’ on campus.”
Elaine Thompson, a senior communication major, agrees.
“It’s good to be forced to think about this kind of stuff,” she said. “A lot of people are suffering and it’s too easy to live in our own bubble and do nothing.”
Bior admits that on his journey to forming SOAP International, even he had to face the question, “What are you doing to help other people?”
The organization’s 2015 goal is to raise enough funding to provide scholarships for 25 additional students. Room, board and education are provided with a donation of $1,500.
Those interested in getting involved can visit soapinternational.org.