Sioux Falls, SD
A onetime "Lost Boy" is helping kids in his former war-torn homeland find hope in the classroom
A Brookings man fled Sudan in his bare feet to escape a bloody civil war 25 years ago. He returned to his hometown last year, piloting an airplane, to take part in the grand opening of a new school funded through donations. He's bringing the generosity of South Dakota into South Sudan.
Whenever pilot Moses Joknhial II flies himself into South Sudan, the people in his hometown have the mistaken impression that he's a jet-setting millionaire.
"They think that I'm the hero, they think that I'm the richest person, they think I've got all the money," Joknhial said.
The money Moses brings to South Sudan is all donated from South Dakota to help bring good fortune to these impoverished people. Those donations have built a 12-classroom elementary school where, in just the last year, enrollment has doubled to 800 students.
"The numbers keep growing because the school looks beautiful, we provide them with a school uniform," Joknhial said.
Enrollment will keep growing because when South Sudan declared its independence from the country of Sudan last year, it set into motion a wave of refugees returning to their homeland.
"Whoever is running away before is starting to come back home and they need to stay and go to school," Joknhial said.
Moses is planning to return to South Sudan in December to recruit more teachers, and scope out a site to build a clinic to treat new moms who often die in childbirth.
"And also train midwife so they can take care of women and children," Joknhial said.
The clinic would also include overnight emergency care. Moses can already see South Dakota's investment paying dividends by rebuilding young lives in his former homeland.
"After we build this school, there's activity. They are jumping up with the rope around, and playing soccer, they have their school uniform, life is good! And this thing came from where? South Dakota," Joknhial said.
You can help the kids of South Sudan by attending a fundraising concert Saturday night at 7:30 at the Knights of Columbus in Sioux Falls. The free concert includes a silent auction.