July 15th, 2009
This is the first post in a series I’m calling “Artist’s Who Care”….because there really ARE more important things in the world than pretty patterns. Yes, it’s true.
My friend Cynthia Davis is a talented decorative artist…. but her most important focus these days is as a devoted board member of Hope For Ariang, a non profit organization which is helping to bring primary education to war torn areas of Sudan. Cynthia is working closely with Hope’s founder, Gabriel Bol Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan“.
Gabriel was 10 years old when North Sudan government-sponsored militiamen led a violent attack on his village in South Sudan in 1987. He fled, not knowing the fate of his parents or siblings. After his escape, Gabriel embarked on a harrowing, four month journey across the Nile River and the untold miles of desert, surviving disease and paralyzing hunger to reach Ethiopia. While at the Dimma Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, Gabriel first learned English by writing on cardboard with pieces of charcoal. Four years later, he fled from violence again, leaving Ethiopia and traveling cross-country to Kenya, where with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Gabriel received an education at the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
In 2001, Gabriel came to the United States, and along with other Sudanese refugees he received help resettling in New York State. After settling in Syracuse in 2001, Gabriel earned an Associate’s of Arts degree in Mathematics and Science at Onondaga Community College in 2004. He then continued with his education at Le Moyne College where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education and Philosophy, in 2007. He was named “Student Teacher of the Year” by the Education Department.
In May 2007 Gabriel returned to South Sudan after 20 years to search for his family, a journey documented in the upcoming film ‘Rebuilding Hope’. Upon his return, he founded Helping Offer Primary Education (HOPE) for Sudan with a mission to provide educational opportunities and health services to Sudanese people adversely affected by political turmoil in Sudan. Gabriel has thrived in the United States and is now working to help his village enhance their education by building, maintaining and supporting the Ariang School. He strongly believes that education is key to achieving lasting peace and development in his native Sudan.
Cynthia became involved with Gabriel’s organization through her daughter Stephanie’s high school work with Students Taking Action Now in Darfur. To date, she has helped the organization raise over $20,000 by working to introduce Gabriel and his powerful story around the state of Connecticut. An even more personal touch-she now sells her home-baked granola, “Cereal of Hope” at local farm market’s and to devoted customers, helping to raise an additional $1400. With the help of these fundraising efforts, the organization has now drilled 4 wells in Southern Sudan and plans on breaking ground on a first school there this December.
If you’re like me, you may not find the time to work on fundraising, help dig wells, build a school, or even bake granola….but it only takes few minutes and a few dollars to make a difference. Yes, it’s true.