As boys, they fled civil war in the former southern Sudan, survived famine and life in refugee camps, and eventually emigrated to the United States. Many of these boys, now grown men, share a drive to return home to help the people they left behind. John Dau, Gabriel Bol Deng, Daniel Garang Amet and Angelo Kiir, who settled in Central New York, built clinics, schools and wells with the money they raised by sharing their stories of survival and perseverance. South Sudan separated from the northern Sudanese government in 2011, six years after the Sudanese Civil War ended, but peace was short-lived.

After the brief respite from conflict in the world’s newest nation, war broke out again in December 2013 when political tensions arose between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. Thousands of civilians have been killed, more than 4 million people have fled their homes, hundreds of thousands of whom are refugees in neighboring countries, dashing hopes for a thriving democracy. Infrastructure such as clinics, hospitals and schools have been looted, destroyed and abandoned, including John Dau’s Duk Lost Boys Clinic in Duk Payuel, which relocated to a nearby village. Dau and other former “lost boys” continue their fundraising efforts to rebuild South Sudan, where violence and political upheavals continue, endangering a new generation of boys and girls.