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Majak continues to help African village
Isaac Majak continues to help out the African village where he grew up. GateHouse News Service.
Thu Jun 14, 2007, 09:32 AM EDT
Belmont - Amidst the gunshots, the screaming women, and the fire-ravaged village you can hear the soft pitter-patter of shoeless feet moving. Listen closely, and you hear another pair of tiny feet join. As the small feet move onward, thousands more join in an effort to get away from the screaming, the suffering, the dead. The soft pitter-patter becomes a deafening roar upon which the world continues to turn its blind eye.
These are the footsteps of frightened boys who have witnessed atrocities unimaginable to the world outside Africa.
Belmont High School graduate Isaac Majak was one of those boys.
When rebel insurgents began their war against the Sudanese government in 1983, it marked the beginning of perhaps the most brutal and savage civil war in history. Troops from the government raped, enslaved, and killed their way through Sudan. In their blood-soaked wake thousands of young boys and some girls were left to fend for themselves.
These children became known as the “Lost Boys,” a group that totaled over 30,000 at one point. After fleeing from southern Sudan, the Lost Boys embarked on a journey filled with unspeakable horrors.
Oftentimes, a smaller member of the traveling pack would simply drop dead of exhaustion or starvation and be left for dead. The Boys would move on, every so often glancing backward at the vultures pecking at the fallen boy’s body.
With only sporadic help from the Red Cross because of the widespread violence, the Lost Boys trekked toward refugee camps in Ethiopia. For three years, the children stayed in the refugee camps before being chased out by the Ethiopian government.
Forced to journey on foot once again, the Lost Boys began to make their way back through Sudan and into Kenya. Along the way they were forced to cross the treacherous River Gilo, where thousands of boys either drowned or were devoured by crocodiles.
Upon reaching refugee camps in Kenya, only 10,000 of the original 30,000 children remained.
Isaac was one of those survivors.
Isaac is a tall, skinny man with short-cropped hair and eyes that depict no hint of the horrors they have witnessed. His face is kind and his smile contrasts brilliantly with his dark features. Isaac is humble and shy, friendly and intelligent. When you meet him, you wish that his troubles never started, and you really wish that they ended when he reached America.
Alas, Isaac had the incredibly difficult task of trying to assimilate into a society with which he had no prior experience; he did not know the language, and he did not know the people.
“[Isaac] and all the other Lost Boys were asked to become part of our culture,” said Community Service Coordinator Alice Melnikoff. “They were really straddling two worlds. As a survivor he felt strong ties to his culture, but American society was looking for him to assimilate. It was tough. Because of his experience and his perseverance, he has become an inspiration to many of us.”
Isaac had to overcome obstacles greater than the language barrier or loneliness growing up in Sudan. His brothers and sisters were killed when they were trapped in a burning school building.
After four, sometimes difficult years, Isaac graduated from Belmont High School and was the recipient of a scholarship to attend the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, where he could pursue his dream of becoming an electrician.
He put his dream on hold. Shortly into his college career at, Isaac decided to put his education on the backburner. Isaac had visited the surviving members of his village in Africa, including his mother, and came back to Massachusetts with a mission.
Struck by the comparison of his old village to the United States, Isaac resolved to help.
He approached Melnikoff, who was more than happy to assist. Melnikoff’s class last year launched an enormously successful drive with the support of the Belmont community that provided clothing and school supplies to Isaac’s village.
After visiting a second time, Isaac identified three more needs that Americans might take for granted. First on Isaac’s list were fabrics and a sewing machine in order to make school uniforms. Many children in Isaac’s village go to school naked or are adorned with rags. Next, Isaac asked for bicycles for the eight teachers who need transportation to commute to and from school. Isaac also hopes to build a proper school-building in the near future, in place of the huts where classes are taught.
Currently, Isaac works three different jobs. One hundred hour weeks are the norm, as are numerous sleepless nights in a row. Sometimes, if Isaac does not have enough time in-between jobs to get rest in a bed, he will sleep on a bench at Alewife train station. All of this not for his own benefit, but for the multiple people he supports in his village.
“Quite a feat for a lonely boy who works at Dunkin’ Donuts,” said longtime friend and provider Ellen Morgan. “He sends all his money to Africa, rarely spends a penny on himself.”
Isaac and Belmont High School need help.
This year’s Community Service class has raised over $1,000 from various fund-raisers, but Isaac and Melnikoff are looking to widen the community involvement.
If you wish to donate you should send checks payable to Belmont High School, noting “Isaac’s Village” in the memo line, and mail them to Alice Melnikoff at Belmont High School, 221 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA 02478.
Even if the world’s eye is blind, yours is open wide.
—Submitted by Josh Levin-Scherz