My mother Nyathak Muon Joak is a refugee. Like many South Sudanese women of her generation, she has experienced three different civil wars. It is impossible to explain the pain of losing loved ones including children, to describe the deprivation of familiar surroundings--of sounds, sights and smells; to detail the frustration of learning to cope with life in foreign lands that one did not choose to inhabit but was compelled to for survival.
I, too, have experienced war first-hand. I have lived through the anguish of not knowing if I would ever see my mother or my siblings again. As an adolescent boy on the frontline and in refugee camps, I made choices that were motivated by a desire to survive. I could easily have died, many times. A combination of good fortune, resilience, sheer perseverance and the grace of God delivered me from the belly of the beast to a place where I was able to realize my potential and find inner peace. I dreamed of helping others. I dreamed of a homeland where children would grow up in safety. And hoped that they would never again hear the noise of gunfire, of screaming mothers and people scattering in all directions. Not in my worst nightmare could war ever return to South Sudan.
I never imagined I could be recognized as an advocate for the displaced, a voice for the millions who were uprooted from their homes.
I never imagined I could be recognized as an advocate for the displaced, a voice for the millions who were uprooted from their homes. I never dreamed that the organization that sheltered me and fed me when all hope could have been lost, the organization that transported me across the seas to a new life--could return to pick me up, and elevate me so that shoulder-to-shoulder I would join the ranks for those who advocate for refugees, the internally displaced, and the stateless. Although by trade I am an actor, model and storyteller, at heart I am a humanitarian concerned about the welfare of people. If I had my way, there would be no war. I have vivid memories of the senseless loss of life and limbs.
As a supporter of UNHCR, I now have a platform to discuss issues that are close to my heart and to advocate on behalf of other individuals to help bring an end to the devastation endless wars have and continue to cause. I am so proud and honored to represent civilians, men, women and children, who were uprooted from their homes and displaced by war. There are millions of South Sudanese children currently in exile, stateless and unable to return to their homes, unable to call their current locations home. On behalf of the lost generation from wars, around the world, I am appreciative to organizations such as UNHCR for leading the efforts to ease suffering. I remain optimistic to see a better day, there is so much work left to be done.