WESTMINSTER - When the kids see Arok Garang at school, they see a friendly face and a hard-working custodian.
"The man is a machine. He really is. He comes in and gets right to it. He doesn't even stop," said James Moore, head custodian at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Westminster.
Garang works for Moore cleaning the lunchroom, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming the classrooms. But what the kids at Sunset Ridge don't see is why Principal Roger Vadeen called for an assembly.
"A lot of you don't know the story of Arok," Vadeen said to the crowd.
Garang was one of the original "Lost Boys of Sudan".
"When I was 7 years old, my village was attacked," Garang said.
His parents were killed. He had nothing thanks to a civil war that consumed his country.
"And, I started running with my friend and cousin to avoid not to be killed," Garang said.
He started a journey that would take him to Ethiopia and then to Kenya, walking hundreds of miles over a period of three years.
"Some of my friends died because of a lack of food, because of a lack of water... some eat poisonous fruit and died because of that," Garang said.
While crossing jungles and rivers, Garang said some boys were attacked by wild animals and killed.
"It was not like it was my own personal problem," said Garang. "Other kids that I was with, their parents were killed, too. So, we kinda became like a family."
After a long journey, he finally made it to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, an outpost set up by the United Nations in Kenya. He lived there for 9 years before being granted a visa to come to the United States.
"When I first came here, it was very confusing. It was totally different," Garang said. "I used to be where there is no electricity."
Though he works as a custodian now, Garang graduated from the University of Colorado with the knowledge to help him in his real work.
"Through all I went through, I feel like if I'm alive, my purpose would be to help others," Garang said.
He founded a non-profit called Seeds of South Sudan and traveled back to Kakuma with Principal Vadeen to find kids to bring to boarding schools in Kenya to get a proper education. Vadeen said it's for the sake of the fledgling nation, South Sudan.
"This past of full of desperation, hopelessness, war, destruction, and death, but this country does have a future," Vadeen said.
Garang said the ability to bring kids out of the refugee camp to attend boarding schools will not only help them get a proper education, they will have regular access to food and other resources.
"To build a foundation of this nation, children need to be educated. We need teachers. We need doctors," Garang said.
On his trip to Kakuma in July, Vadeen said camp leaders could not believe Garang returned to help.
"He looked at Arok and he said, you know, what are you doing coming back here? People don't come back here. If they leave, they don't come back," Vadeen said.
Garang said never coming back was never an option.
"It' is a lot of hard work and need a lot of money. But, you know, to make a difference, we have to go more. We cannot just go and do little thing and run away," Garang said.
The Lost Boy who said he doesn't feel lost anymore.
"I don't feel like I'm lost cause I know where I'm going," Garang said.
If you want to find out more about Seeds of South Sudan, click here: http://seedsofsouthsudan.org/
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