From South Sudan to Haddonfield

Payton Weiner, Contributing Writer

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October 8, 2018, may have at first seemed like an ordinary Monday at Haddonfield Memorial High School, but there was an unfamiliar presence among the hallways of the school. As students walked to their classes, they could not help but notice a man smiling warmly at all of those who passed by him. This man was Garang Buk Buk, a former South-Sudanese child soldier, whom with the help of an English teacher, Kimberly Dickstein, began a Master’s Program at Emory University in Atlanta this fall.

On his fall break, Buk ventured from Atlanta to the town of Haddonfield to partake in events throughout the community and to visit the high school, planning to not only discuss his story to the students, but also to view their school day, for his education in South Sudan contrasted greatly to that of the students at Haddonfield Memorial High School.

At fifteen and sixteen years old, Buk was not learning algebra, geometry, or calculus like the students at Haddonfield, but his ABCs. He did not have the privilege of writing down notes with a pencil onto a piece of paper. Instead, he had to memorize all that he was taught. Buk also did not have a classroom; he met with his classmates under a tree. In addition to visiting individual classes at the high school to answer questions and observe how the students worked, a school-wide assembly was held where Buk presented information about his home and family in South Sudan. He explained how the civil war in South Sudan affected the citizens in his country. Buk highlighted the conflicts his country has endured and the struggles it continues to face, such as finding clean drinking water. He wants to use his journey at Emory to aid him in helping South Sudan, hoping to bring back new knowledge and ideas to his country.

Garang Buk Buk’s visit not only allowed Haddonfield students to gain a new perspective on education and appreciate what they took for granted, but it also provided students with an inspiration to help others, encouraged by Buk’s statement, “In order to transform others, you have to transform yourself”.                                          

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