Lost Boys visit shows need for understanding of diversity
Lost Boys from Sudan present in One West on Dec. 17.
Peter Bol escaped violence in Sudan and a refugee camp in Kenya to make his way to America.
Yet he, like many other "Lost Boys", returned to the still volatile African country of his birth.
"A lot go back like me to start schools," he told Fermilab staff during a lunchtime colloquium. "If you educate the villagers that they live in a diverse country, - Muslims, Arabs, Africans - the government will not be able to use that against them to divide them."
Learning the prevalence of diversity, that it is not something to fear and that even the most diverse groups share much in common, builds a platform for future cooperation. It is the first step for the Sudanese to learn to govern themselves, and their vast oil resources, in the best interest of the entire country, he added.
Likewise, that same knowledge also is the first step to creating a more comfortable, accepting, and likely productive, workforce.
The Fermilab Planning Group for Multicultural Events organized the December visit by a group of Lost Boys as part of Universal Human Rights Month.
Director Pier Oddone created the planning group in July 2007 as one of several subcommittees of the Diversity Council tailored to increase awareness of diversity at the laboratory and in the surrounding communities.
The lecture drew young and old listeners of several ethnicities and nationalities. The crowd of several dozen employees and users had many questions for the men about their lives in Sudan and their work in Naperville. The Sudanese Community Center there helps refugees learn life skills, celebrate the best of their culture and change divisive traditions such as a lack of education for women.
"That's the way we begin empowering ourselves here," Bol said. "Then we transfer that empowerment back home."
-- Tona Kunz