July 13, 2016

Guest Post: Aduei Riak Found Hope in Education Despite Civil War

Today's post was written by Geoffrey Johnson for school. I wanted to add it to the hero blog because he makes many good points in this essay.

Imagine losing your parents and going to sleep each night knowing that the next day, you may not survive. Despite this, imagine clinging to an insane and virtually impossible dream of being a lawyer to help people even though you’re in the middle of a civil war… Aduei Riak is a Sudanese woman who lived through that hellish experience. At the age of three she was separated from her parents and joined the Lost Boys, a group of children in the same predicament who were marching away from the Sudanese Civil war. She bravely accepted her situation, not her fate, and lived through it. Riak took the opportunity offered to her and earned a higher education that enabled her to change her fate.  
One newspaper says,“You would never know that as a young girl she walked 1000 miles to flee a civil war in her homeland. Or that Riak, now twenty-three, came of age in a refugee camp, and until last summer had not seen her mother since she was six.” (1) She was thrown into life for before she was supposed to- she lost her parents, accepted the possibility of death, and she pushed through it, despite the hopelessness of the situation. Eventually, her perseverance earned her a job as a paralegal, which is job that requires a bachelor’s and associate’s degree, while the most common level of education achieved by Americans who have never seen war in their lives is a high school diploma.(2) Granted, Riak was one of the 1% of refugees who actually received a higher education, but that is all the more reason why she is a hero. No one would have looked down at her for not pursuing a higher education because of her horrible situation as a child. Instead, she refused to take any sympathy and made a way for herself in the dark world she was given. Through hard work, courage, and perseverance, she changed her fate, her fortune, into something to be admired. Students can connect to her story; it will give them hope and drive to make a bright future for themselves, despite the many, many challenges life will put out.
Aduei Riak would be a stellar speaker that would help the lives of the middle school kids. Riak grew up in the middle of a civil war, with fighting and bloodshed involuntarily part of her daily life. She defied all expectations and despite her horrible circumstance, she rode the currents of change without looking back to make a new life for herself. We can all respect the amazing things she accomplished and use her story to pull us through hard times.

  1. ‘Lost’ in Sudan’s violence, she’s found hope in the USA (Charisse Jones, page 1)
  2. Federal Census Bureau, 2000
Photo courtesy of USA Today