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ISF Graduate / Awan D.

Awan’s journey to become one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” (as dubbed by “60 Minutes”) began at age nine in 1988-89 when his world changed for ever as Islamic Arab Soldiers attacked his quiet village on the edge of the Nile River. He ran into the night in fear of his life as gunfire was exploding all around him. Within 3 or 4 days, he joined other boys who had also run for their lives and in days an exodus of biblical proportions was underway as over sixteen thousand boys ages 8 – 12 began the arduous journey over three months to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Many boys tell of brothers, cousins and friends who were lost to crocodiles and drowning when crossing the Gilo River… in total, drowning, hunger, thirst, disease and wild beasts consumed an estimated seven thousand boys.

Three years later, they were forced to leave Ethiopia, and after another devastating three months of wanderings on foot, an estimated nine thousand boys ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya. There they stayed for nine years, taking care of each other and resuming the remnant of their lives. Awon resumed the fourth grade, skipped the fifth grade to the sixth grade… and nine years later, finished the twelfth grade with a B average.

In 2001, he learned that he was selected (by luck, he saw his name on the selection board) to go to the United States. From January, 2001 to September, 2001 (prior to 9/11), just under 4,000 boys were brought to the United States and dispersed to various communities. One hundred and one boys found their new home in Dallas… and Awan was one of them. He was happy beyond words to be free and to go to school. His dream was to get a job and pursue a four year college degree.

He had a job within three months working at the Dallas Arboretum. He then got a better job at Sears, where he worked for a year. His next job was with Home Depot where he started in lumber and was promoted to cashier.  It was during this time that Awan was introduced to Ben Carroll by a fellow Rotarian and from that point on he lived with Ben and Dee in their home.

ISF began assisting Awan with his school expenses when he enrolled in CCCC. “Living with Ben and Dee taught me many things,” says Awan. “I learned how to manage money, pay my school tuition, pay off my car… and learn to better speak English. I learned how a professional American family works and plays together. I gained an understanding of the American culture and gained insight into the world around me.” “My first Christmas was a great blessing… I received many clothes, a radio… I felt like one of the sons, I was their child.”

“Mr Ben and I have had many discussions about leadership and he has had me read two books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Becoming a Person of Influence by John Maxwell. I have learned that to be a leader, I have to think about other people rather than myself. I have to think about helping them solve their problems. You then feel good… like you made a difference.”

Awan enrolled in Richland CC in the summer of 2002 and upon moving to Plano, began attending Collin College in the fall of 2003. He passed 5 preliminary classes before being accepted in the degree program at Collin College. In 2007, Awan was accepted into the accounting program at the University of Texas at Dallas.  With incredible perseverence and determination, Awan received his degree in December 2012. For Awan this was a dream come true; a dream that few in his country ever experience.  Today, Awan is living in Amarillo, Texas and establishing a new and independent life for himself.  We are incredibly proud of this young man and know that he will be a great success in anything he attempts.