November 5, 2004

‘Lost Boy’ seeking to bring aid to his people

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Philip Anyieth, who works in Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, came to the United States to escape Sudan’s bloody civil war. He and some 20,000 others who fled the country were known as the “lost boys.”
photo by Dana Johnson

‘Lost Boy’ seeking to bring aid to his people

Philip Anyieth is getting a chance to go home to see his family next month. That's no small thing for the 24-year-old Anyieth [pronounced Ahn'-nee-yes], an environmental services worker at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. As one of the 20,000 “lost boys” of Sudan, Anyieth was forced from his home at the age of 7 by civil war and has not seen his mother, sister or brother in 17 years.

Anyieth, who was the subject of “Lost no more,” an article in the June 18 Reporter, is quick with a smile and open to sharing his story of life as a refugee. As a result, many of the staff at the Children's Hospital have become friends and have expressed a desire to help him realize at least a small part of his dream.

“From what I know in my (home town) area, there is no clinic or medical facility, no school,” Philip says. “(To provide) those kinds of things, that would be my dream. I'm a student, so I cannot provide that yet.”

He may not be able to build schools and clinics, but Philip may be able to buy a small amount of medicines and supplies for his family to take back with them to their home town of Bor, in Southern Sudan. Dr. Akec Kohc, a Sudanese physician now living in Minnesota, is helping to advise Anyieth about how to best provide humanitarian relief, and how to do it safely.

“It is good to decide to help the people of Bor,” said Kohc. “The refugee camps in Kenya have aid from the United Nations. It's not a lot, but it's something, Bor has nothing and the needs are great for medicines to treat malaria and bronchial pneumonia. There is a need for vaccines against measles and rubella; there is also diarrhea and malnutrition.”

A Brentwood Baptist Church Sunday school class that has become close to Anyieth's cousin, Gai Luom (pronounced Guy Lew'-ahm), has arranged for both Anyieth's and Luom's visas and has purchased plane tickets for them to travel and spend three months in Africa.

“Once they are in Uganda, they will make arrangements to travel to Kenya, to the refugee camp where both of them lived for years,” said Christine Granky a member of the Sunday school class. “We will fly three members of each of their families from Sudan to meet them in the camp where they can be reunited safely.”

“Gai and Phillip learned which of their family members in Sudan were alive this past spring,” Granky said. “He brought the news to our Sunday school class, and we all said “You've got to see your family. Can't we get them to come to America? Or can't we get you to them?” then we started passing the basket.”

Trish Nielsen, Pediatric Residency Recruitment Coordinator for VCH, says she is amazed by what Anyieth has been through and hopes to help him purchase a camera to take with him to record images of the family he was separated from 17 years ago.

“You can tell a lot about a person through their eyes,” Nielsen said. “From his eyes you can tell he is wise beyond his years and he hasn't asked us for anything at all.”

Anyieth lives with several lost boys, some of whom also work at the Children's Hospital. While some have grown suspicious over the years and hesitate to share their stories, Anyieth encourages them to be willing to speak about it. Almost all are students at area colleges and are educating themselves in the hope of one day returning to Sudan and helping rebuild their country. Anyieth says he knows that is years away, but he says he can be patient, and offer what he can now.

“Although it's not a lot, whatever I get here, a doctor there will give to the people based on their needs,” Anyieth said. “Like people say, a little is better than nothing.”

Those interested in contributing to the relief fund the Brentwood Baptist Church Sunday school class has organized for Anyieth and his cousin to purchase medical and other relief items can contact Carole Bartoo at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital public relations, 322-7755.