A professional basketball player who fled to Britain with his family during Sudan's civil war has returned home to rehabilitate a school in Udichi payam (township), Western Bahr El-Ghazal State.
The 25-year-old former refugee, Luol Deng, who now lives in the United States and plays basketball for the Chicago Bulls and the British national team, provided $100,000 in funding to rebuild Udichi Primary School through the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
An inauguration ceremony on 9 July for the school, which was rehabilitated in collaboration with Save the Children and UNMIS Wau Child Protection Unit, was attended by representatives of UNHCR, Save the Children, UNMIS, international media, the state government, citizens of Udichi and hundreds of students from the primary school.
Udichi Payam Administrator Joseph Deng Kon noted that students had previously been studying under trees amidst the continual distraction of rain and insects. "But now, thanks to Luol Deng and to those who were involved in this generosity, we have concrete buildings that create favorable conditions for all students of Udichi."
Observing that several adults had grown up in the country without basic education due to the 21-year conflict, Luol Deng said, "We don't want that to be the case for the kids. We have a chance to change it and build more schools and help more kids and that is how we turn the country (around)."
He had assisted in rebuilding the school because education was everything, the basketball player added. "We Sudanese should focus on the kids who need to go to school in order to become smarter than we are."
Amanda Seller, Director of Fundraising at UNHCR Geneva, described Luol Deng as a "very compassionate young man who has strong feelings about the Sudanese people". He was inspirational to all refugees who had left their country due to unbearable conditions.
"Luol Deng, who was once a refugee in the West, is a wonderful example for all people ... that refugees can rebuild their country when we give them hope and the means to resettle their lives," Ms. Seller said. "We hope Deng's contribution will have a great impact."
Mr. Deng himself said his goal was to see one happy child. "If I make one kid happy today, this means I have already done something ..."
Some 875 boys and girls are currently attending Udichi Primary School.