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Vol State’s Lost Boys of Sudan

Last updated on April 6, 2016

By: Preston Neal, Staff Writer

With thousands attending Vol State, many students are not aware of “The Lost” boys and their history. “I’ve never heard of the ‘Lost Boys’ of Sudan,” said Sarah Leyhew, Vol State student. They can be identified by the linear scars on their foreheads, caused by a cultural practice of scarification.

Most of the Lost boys no longer attend Vol State, having departed to pursue employment and other opportunities.

Sudan is the third largest country in Africa, and is home to various peoples and culture. The northern part of Sudan is dominated by Islam, and the southern region by Christianity.

As addressed in English International Development Committee member Peter Verney’s “Sudan: Conflict and Minorities,” differences between North Sudan and South Sudan, such as culture and religion, became prevalent after Sudan’s independence from Great Britain was gained in the 1950s.

This animosity culminated in a civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2005. According to a documentary from the “Next Door Neighbors” series, presented by Nashville Public Television (NPT), this war claimed over two million lives and resulted in the displacement of over four million Sudanese.

This conflict made wandering orphans of thousands of Sudanese children, many of whom would perish while fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Some of these children were also recruited by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a guerilla movement that was a central catalyst of the Second Sudanese Civil War. These scattered children came to be known as the “Lost Boys.”

According to the International Rescue Committee, the “Lost Boys” are the most war-traumatized children ever documented. In 2001, as part of a program established by the United States Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 3800 Lost Boys were allowed to resettle in the United States.  

This effort was halted after the tragedies that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, but was resumed in 2004. The Sudanese were settled in various states, with the largest concentration of Sudanese residing in Omaha, Nebraska.

Many Sudanese settled in the Nashville area, attempting to assimilate to the American way of life and pursue education.

The Lost Boys Foundation was founded in 2004 to help refugees find jobs, attend school and to spread word of their story.  

According to the NPT, the Sudanese were permitted to attend class at Gallatin High School. With little to no prior education, this was a valuable resource for the Sudanese.

Word spread between communities, and Sudanese from other states traveled to Gallatin in order to attend school.

Over recent years, several of the “Lost Boys” attended Volunteer State Community College. Those interested in learning more about the “Lost Boys” of Sudan in Nashville should visit their webpage,, for more information.

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