| ||Meet Jok |
A desire to get an education is a value that Jok has been willing to risk his life for. Jok was born in 1985 in Bor, Sudan. Two years earlier, a war began to rage in the southern region of Sudan. By 1991, a six year old Jok along with his 9 year brother Jacob were forced to flee their home and become two of what the U.S. would later call them, The Lost Boys of Sudan.
Jok, in search of safety and access to education, traveled, mostly by foot, from Sudan to Uganda then to Kenya then back to Sudan and then eventually ended up in Kenya, in a journey that took him 10 years. “Schools were common targets for bombings but it was important that we got an education, so we went,” said John. While in Kenya for the second time John was one of 3,600 boys to be selected for Lost Boys of Sudan U.S. government program. So, on March 30th, 2001 Jok boarded a plane with 14 other boys and headed for Tacoma, Washington, a location only known to him by the destination marked on his plane ticket.
Catholic Community Services, a group that sponsored his plane ticket, was responsible for setting Jok up with services when he arrived in Tacoma. They took him to Tacoma Community House (TCH) were Jok was given an opportunity to take a few classes to help him improve on his English pronunciation. He already knew how to read and write in English from his schooling in Africa but now he had to speak it, something he said he rarely had to practice in school. TCH also set him up with youth summer employment program, which pays students to work at other non-profits. He was taught how to fill out a job application and how to prepare for an interview along with other hiring processes. During Jok’s first summer in the U.S. he already had his first job with the Puget Sound Boys and Girls Club. Jok said the experience was “great, it is really fun to work with kids.”
Andrea Reubel, the Employment Coordinator at TCH, took a special interest in helping these Sudanese boys. Andrea was already responsible for taking care of her own 6 year old son, but now she stretched herself even further when she obtained a license to become a foster parent. Andrea took in 4 boys from Sudan including Jok and his brother Jacob. John formed a deep and lasting relationship with Andrea as well as her son, whom he often watched over and played with. When Jok turned 18 and graduated from Foss High School, Andrea’s commitment was over on paper, but their relationship endured. She helped him as he traversed his path towards college.
Jok was accepted into Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. John was not the only one to attend college. All four of the boys who went through TCH and lived with Andrea went to college. Jok’s brother is currently attending St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. On May 11th, 2008 Jok graduated with a double major in political science and sociology with a concentration in comprehensive leadership. Currently, Jok rumning his own nonprofit whose mission is to help promote and enhance literacy and education in war-torn South Sudan. To learn more about his nonprofit visit: http://www.liliireducationproject.org/.