Photo Credits: IOM/Muse Mohammed
Born in South Sudan, Abraham lived among war and displacement for most of his life. When fighting intensified in his home town of Bor in 1987, he walked by foot along with thousands of other “lost boys” to Ethiopia.
He lived in Pinyudo, Ethiopia, in a refugee camp until 1991, when fighting broke out in Ethiopia he briefly returned to South Sudan. However, the situation was not safe, and he fled to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he first began school at the age of 12.
In 1999, Abraham began the process of resettlement and went to the United States in 2001. When Abraham and several other young men first arrived at the airport in New York City, they were received by IOM and were told to look at a board to find out what state they were going to – Abraham saw a “PA” next to his name: he was going to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
After their flight from New York to Harrisburg landed, Abraham and his friends weren’t sure if they should get off the airplane because they didn’t know what would happen next. “After the flight attendants told us that we needed to leave the plane, we were surprised to find that we were greeted by church members and signs with our names for a warm welcome.”
Him and his friend stayed with a pastor and his wife when they first arrived. The first night, they didn’t sleep at all because they didn’t know how to turn the lights off in their room – a technology completely new to them.
Since he was 19 years old when he arrived in the US, he was too old to attend high school, so Abraham studied and obtained his GED. He went to community college and after two years transferred to Shippensburg University.
“I nearly gave up the day I began community college because my first assignment was to type a two-page essay. The problem was that I had never used a computer before.”
Regardless, Abraham quickly learnt how to use a computer and spent hours mastering the skill. After returning to Bor for several months in 2007 to be a mental health trainer, he returned to Pennsylvania and obtained a graduate degree in psychology.
“I then applied for hundreds of jobs in Africa because I wanted to come back and help my people. I finally landed a job with a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme in Wau, South Sudan.” He remains there today and has progressed to be head of his office.
Having lived much of his life in war and seeing his country once again plunged into conflict, he still remains hopeful for the future. “Looking at South Sudan, it will take a while but I have a strong belief that there will be peace. South Sudan cannot be a good country without all 64 of its tribes – this is who we are.”