The lost boy of Sudan, Jany Deng never had a childhood. He was only 10 years old when a civil war broke out in his homeland in South Sudan. Deng is an orphaned and he has no other choice for survival.
That’s why he had to flee the country alone, walking more than 2,000 miles towards Ethiopia.
Most of the time, he had nothing to eat or drink. “We have to walk for a month, a day, a year, just wondering wherever we can get safety,” Deng recalls.
Months later, he reached a refugee settlement where he was able to live for several years. But in 1991, war broke out again. This time, he had to walk 2,500 miles towards Kenya.
Deng and the other boys with him became “The Lost Boys of Sudan” named by the aid workers who helped them relocate in America.
Deng came to the U.S. not knowing the language or the duties. It was an extreme culture shock.
But thanks to his foster mother, Deng learned he could expect some good from this new world, and others would be there to help him.
He realized that whenever he needed help, there was always someone to show him the way.
That’s why he made himself a promise. If he is in the position to have the capacity to assist, he’d gladly help other people too.
The Lost Boy Is Now A Man Who Helps People
Today, Deng is a community leader and a social worker with Dignity Health’s CATCH program.
This program helps underserved, disenfranchised, and chronically ill patients access resources and take control of their physical and medical needs.
Through the program, patients improve their self-support and gain social support to reduce the time they spend in emergency rooms and in-patient units, giving them an improved overall quality of life.
In his job as a CATCH social worker, his past experiences permit him to see clients in a way that other professionals may not be able to.
He brings a complete approach to his work and sees every patient as unique. These people have their own goals, challenges, and strengths, just like he had.
Humans, Deng says, have a lot of needs. And those extend far beyond the medical. That’s why Dignity Health focuses on all aspects of health — from the physical to the mental to the social.
For Deng, every interaction is a chance to inspire a patient to accept his help and pay it forward. “I want to pass it on, and hopefully, those people that I work with and help, they can pass it on to somebody else,” he says.
All the challenges and trials that the lost boy of Sudan experienced enabled him to feel the people’s need.
He may not have a great childhood, but he is now the one who can give a great childhood to someone.