Chris Garang says being featured in Rebuilding Hope, a documentary about Sudan's Lost Boys, was both strange and painful. The 26-year-old Tucson resident is featured in the film along with two other former Lost Boys who returned to their native Sudan, the country they fled from as small children during a civil war. The film screens at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18. The screening will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Jen Marlowe, Garang and the other two men in the documentary. For more information, visit www.rebuildinghopesudan.org.
What's it like to see yourself on a big screen?
In some parts, it is hard to watch. We've been through a lot, and to go back and see for yourself on the screen the pain you've gone through and others have gone through is hard. But I think it is something we needed to do and something other people need to see.
Do you think we still don't understand the full story of what happened in Sudan?
Sometimes. I think people need to know more, but ... most Americans know about the Lost Boys. ... Many don't know our story, or have forgotten, and I think they also need to know what we have accomplished and what our goals are. If they see this movie, they will know that we've not just been here for ourselves.
What do you think is important for people to know about you?
I want to help people. I don't want to get rich; I am a helper. I want to go to school and be successful, but not to forget our people back home. That's why we made an effort to return. Until this trip, I was not home for almost 18 years. I have spent nine years in this country, and some years in refugee camps. I live a luxury life here. I drive a nice car, and I eat good food. I can't say that about the people we met when we returned.
In what ways was it difficult to go back?
Going back was not difficult, but to see the people—it was most hard to see how hard life is and the needs of the people. People like us take what we have for granted—clean water (or the ability to) go to Walgreens to buy something for pain if you have a headache. For them, they don't have a way of getting anything they need.
Were you able to find family?
(On another visit), I was able to discover family, yes. I found out my dad and my mom are still alive, and I was able to see them.
You have family here, too. When you arrived here in Tucson, you were placed with a foster family.
Yes. We've been together now for seven years. They are wonderful people. My foster mother has been working hard to help me, and the church that we go to is raising money for me to go back again to Sudan on another trip. They raised money for my first trip back.
What have you done on each trip, besides the documentary?
On my second trip, I brought back a lot of medication. I found out medicine wasn't getting distributed. Then I went back again to train somebody on how to do an assessment and how to give the right drugs. I did that for three months.
What are you doing now in Tucson?
I'm going to school, and I'm on a waiting list to get in the (registered nurse) program at Pima Community College. I also work at a skilled nursing place. I got my certificate for the LPN program, but I didn't pass the state board exam, but I'm working now to take it again.
Are there a lot of other former Lost Boys in the Tucson area?
There are more in Phoenix ... about 400. But when we first came, we had no connection with each other at all. We didn't know the technology; we didn't know about or have cell phones. After we got those, people were connected. Now we have a Lost Boy (gathering) in Phoenix. We had one this year in July with about 500 boys.
What needs to happen in order for life to change in Sudan?
The American public knows people are suffering. The problem is the American politician. I am a citizen of this country now. The only way things can change is in Washington. It is very complicated. I think it can begin with this country not doing business with a government that is killing its own people.