GiveBack KickBack Caps International Education WeekPosted on: November 12, 2010 in People & Places
John Akuar was eight years old the night his mother woke him and told him to run.
“I remember that night in 1987 very well,” John recalls. “At four o’clock in the morning we were awakened by guns shooting. My mother came to me with a shirt and told me to put it on and run. The government troops were attacking our village of Abul (in Southern Sudan). I ran off toward the East by myself.”
John’s journey—shared in some measure with nearly 27,000 other “Lost Boys” of Sudan—took him across hundreds of miles of burning desert, dangerous rivers, temporary safety in Ethiopia, back to Sudan and finally to Kenya, where he would find refuge for the next 17 years.
In 2005, he made his way to Tucson, where he became a U.S. citizen and enrolled in classes at the University of Arizona. Today, John is a senior at the UA looking forward to graduating this December with a degree in International Studies.
But, he has never been able to forget the village he fled so long ago.
Working with Dr. Cindi Gilliland and students from the Eller School of Management on a fundraising project for MGMT 310A, John is helping to organize an event to benefit his former home of Abul. Arizona Refugee Connection’s (ARC) GiveBack KickBack will take place November 19, from 5 – 10 p.m. in the Main Gate Square, directly adjacent to the west edge of the UA campus.
GiveBack Kickback will cap off International Education Week (Nov. 15-19) on the UA campus. The event will feature continuous entertainment (bands, comedy, dance performances) on an outdoor stage, games, exhibits, craft displays and a silent auction in the Geronimo Plaza.
The highlight of the evening will be a DJ “spinoff” where contestants are judged on their technical abilities, showmanship, tricks, timing and creativity. Several restaurants on University Boulevard have agreed to donate a portion of their profits that night to the project.
Ninety percent of all proceeds will go toward building a school and drilling a well in Abul, with the remaining 10 percent going to the Arizona Refugee Connection (ARC).
Participants in Give Back Kick Back will be able to further contribute to the project by buying stock ownership certificates to the School for Abul in denominations ranging from five to $5,000.
“I am so proud of my students for using their business skills to make a positive difference in our community and the world,” says Dr. Gilliland.
The event planning team consists of eight of over 120 UA students completing real-world social responsibility projects for course credit every semester and supported by ARC.
Generating support for Abul is a high priority.
John returned to his village for the first time in 2005, and what he found there troubled him deeply. Classes for local school children were being held under trees or in open-aired huts. A single blackboard was ferried between four teachers as each had need throughout the day. Children had no books, no pencils and no paper. Teachers received no pay.
In addition, the women of Abul walked five miles each day to retrieve water for the village, and the water they collected was frequently murky and contaminated, resulting in a high incidence of water-borne illness and occasionally causing death.
John promised himself that he would do whatever he could to help his village build a school and dig a well. Upon his return to Tucson, he met with members of his church, Saint Francis in the Foothills United Methodist, and told them of his plan. His vision inspired the church community to get involved by setting up a framework for fundraising and donating seed money to get the project underway.
John returned to Abul this past summer to discuss construction plans with village elders and meet with local contractors. He was also able to deliver the first school supplies the children of Abul had ever seen: pencils, paper, textbooks, notebooks and 16 blackboards.
Even as he finishes up his studies at the UA, John continues to fundraise by visiting local churches and organizations and sharing his pictures and stories of Sudan. The estimated cost for the project is $250,000 and to date over $50,000 has been raised.
The next order of business is to start drilling a well.
“It is the right of every human living on earth to have access to clean water and education,” John says.
On November 19th, the UA and local community will have an opportunity to help John realize his dream for Abul.
“I hope everyone will come out and show their Wildcat support on Friday night at Main Gate Square,” says Dr. Gilliland. “GiveBack KickBack will be a great time for a great cause.”
To learn more about the ARC’s Give Back, Kick Back event, visit them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163197973711748.
ARC’s GiveBack, KickBack Event
Nov. 19, 2010, 5 – 10 p.m.
Main Gate Square (University and Tyndall Ave. between Park and Euclid)
Proceeds benefit the School for Abul project and Arizona Refugee Connection.