Friday, November 30, 2007

Born and Raised in War in Sudan

Next Talk at the West Vancouver Museum
Wednesday December 5, 2007 from 7pm
Guest Speaker: Charles O. Lomudak

Charles O. Lomudak is a volunteer for UNICEF Canada and works as a settlement worker for Vancouver School Board. He will talk about his personal account of growing up in Sudan during the ongoing civil war.
Please read the article below from The Vancouver Sun, May 15, 2007

Paula Lomudak (centre) is reunited in Surrey with sons Charles (rear right) and Joseph (far right) and cousins Joseph, Mary, Johnson and Josephine.
Photograph by : Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

Mother's Day sees Sudanese family reunited after 14 years
Son who fled when he was 12 worked to bring mother to B.C. from refugee camp

Doug Ward
Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

A 62-year-old woman from Sudan walked off an airplane at Vancouver International Airport recently and embraced a son she had not lived with since a prolonged civil war sent him into exile two decades ago.
She had spent the last 14 years in refugee camps and had nearly given up hope that her family would ever be together again.
The son, Charles Lomudak, now 35, greeted his mother with a banner that read: "Welcome to Canada Mom. We Love You."
After 21 years, the family was finally reunited.
His mother, Paula Lomudak, has been granted permanent residency in Canada and is living with her son, who sponsored her, in Surrey. They celebrated Mother's Day with more joy than most.
"Back home we don't celebrate Mother's Day. But of all Canadians, I am getting perhaps the best Mother's Day," said Charles Lomudak.
The Lomudak family is a victim of the long civil war that began in southern Sudan in 1983 as the Islamic government in the country's north battled rebels in the mostly non-Muslim south.
War and famine led to the displacement of more than four million people. An estimated two million people died in over two decades of fighting.
Among the members of this Sudanese diaspora was Charles Lomudak who fled his family's small village in southern Sudan in 1986.
Lomudak was a 12-year-old student at the time and feared that he would be abducted by the rebels and forced to be a boy-soldier.
"I had a close friend who was taken away to become a rebel soldier. There are thousands of these boys now in North America. They are called the Lost Boys of Sudan."
Lomudak and his brother hid in the bush during the day and at night would sneak back into town for food.
They kept moving south, away from the fighting. "I saw people shot, I saw people lying on the ground dead. But we just kept running."
Eventually, they arrived in a town near the Ugandan border where an uncle lived. He remained there for three years, until 1989 when the civil war spread further south, forcing Lomudak to leave again -- this time to refugee camps in Uganda.
He was nearly killed in the camps when a group of soldiers tied him up and beat him repeatedly with a dry stick. "I thought I was going to die. I had a swollen back and arms. I lost my voice. They beat me to the point where I couldn't cry anymore."
Finally, Lomudak and a group of other refugees were taken to the airport and flown back to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where they were placed in camps for internally displaced people. He resisted orders to return to the south of the country and remained in Khartoum to complete his high school education.
Lomudak decided to go to Ethiopia and attend a college run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, to which he belonged.
He remained at the school in Ethiopia for five years and during all that time he had no contact with his mother or the rest of his family.
Lomudak put in a request for information about his family with the Red Cross and about four months later learned that they were in refugee camps in Uganda.
After completing college in Ethiopia, Lomudak's future was again on hold. He applied for refugee status in Canada in 1995 and a year later arrived in Vancouver. He quickly found work at a warehouse in Annacis Island and began sending money back to his family in Uganda.
Later he attended Langara College, studied social work and began working in foster homes. Eventually, he found full-time work with the Vancouver school board as a special education assistant and now works at Lord Beaconsfield elementary in East Vancouver.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007


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