From Sudanese refugee to US diplomat: an exceptional story that’s true

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 23, 2015
Gai Nyok with his foster American mother, Angela Will

Gai Nyok with his foster American mother, Angela Will

When people discuss the refugee issue, it’s always about highs and lows – jihadis sneaking in to Europe as needy people and Gai Nyok, the Sudanese orphan who’s now a bonafide American diplomat.

Mr Nyok, who is off to Caracas next year, has become a poster boy for refugees. He is one of 25,000 children orphaned by Sudan’s civil war, travelled nearly a thousand miles from his village in what is now South Sudan at the age of five and entered a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

According to Quartz, which wrote about Mr Nyok’s remarkable story on November 9, before the Paris attacks, the young Sudanese boy was granted asylum in the US in 2001. An American family took him in, he got an education and became a Thomas R. Pickering fellow, which prepares graduates for a foreign service career.

One could argue that Mr Nyok was exceptional. Or exceptionally lucky. Not every refugee goes on to become a diplomat representing his/her adopted country.

Mr Nyok was one of 4,000 so-called “lost boys” of Sudan’s second civil war. Many refugees remain firmly lost even after they find a second home.

But it is still remarkable to consider the success stories – as and when they emerge.