When classes resume in September, Centralia College will welcome three young men from Sudan. When Jibril Gude, Samuel Dafala, and Marco Kila enter their classrooms, they will write a very different chapter in their ongoing story.
During the pre-dawn darkness at an isolated cattle camp in northeast Sudan, life changed for those three young teenagers in the blink of an eye. A band of armed, militant Arab Muslims swarmed into the camp with guns, knives, and machetes and began targeting anyone who moved. There was a bloody civil war underway—North versus South—and the Muslim rebels were intent on enforcing the North’s Islamic Law. Black Sudanese in the cattle camp were mostly Christians whose allegiance lay with the African population to the south. Jibril, Samuel, and Marco, caught in the deadly firestorm, did the only thing they knew; the trio ran for their lives. How they ran. They didn’t slow their pace until they had outdistanced a handful of pursuers late that day—and still they ran!
The situation was dire. The boys had no way of knowing if their parents, siblings or friends had survived the brutal attack. They knew only to run. “We would stop sometimes to gather wild fruits off the trees,” said Jibril, “and then we would keep running.” It would be nearly two months of running and 300 miles before the boys reached the border with Ethiopia. But their troubles didn’t end at the border; they needed to reach a refugee camp inside the neighboring nation. “But it cost money to cross the border,” explained Samuel. “We had no money and no food, so we worked for farmers in Sudan to earn enough.”
Once they were allowed to travel to a refugee camp they were interviewed by the International Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It was eventually decided these three were good candidates for schooling and a foster home in the U.S. Months later the arrangements were made and the trio left Ethiopia for New York and then Seattle, where they met their new foster parents: Larry and Rhonda Hewitt, from Centralia.
For two years the young men have studied for high school completion and are taking English as a Second Language at Centralia High School. Their sills are advanced enough to allow them to enter college this fall. They have made a lot of friends in Lewis County and look forward to their college experience. “We will make friends at Centralia College,” said Marco, the most outgoing of the three. “We have talked with teachers and students and we are anxious to start college here.”
The boys from Sudan have their long-term goals already chosen. Marco hopes to become a U.S. Immigration Inspector, Jabril has his eye on a career in Physical Therapy, and Samuel will study in a health care or medical field. In the past year or more the boys have all learned their parents escaped the deadly nightmare at the cattle camp and are safe in another part of Sudan. All three say they may go back to Sudan someday, but only to visit. All three are convinced their future lives lie in the United States.