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William Mayom, a 24-year-old Old Dominion University student who was reunited with his mother in Africa this summer after being separated from her for more than 18 years, will host a reception at the university's Canterbury Center Saturday, Aug. 26, to thank those who helped him make the trip.

The reception will be from 4-6 p.m. at the center, 1526 W. 49th St.

Mayom, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," was among thousands of boys and young men from southern Sudan who fled a civil war in the late 1980s. His father and several siblings died when his Dinka village was raided. Mayom was just a child, but he migrated barefoot with older youths first to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and then to Kenya.

Now a pre-nursing student at ODU, Mayom was among 3,000 Lost Boys of Sudan who were relocated from Kenya to the United States in 2001. He left for the states just a few months before his mother arrived in Kenya to look for him.

When Mayom passed through the portals of his extended family's compound in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya in mid-May, he was literally smothered by relatives, the most excited of which were his mother, Elizabeth Yar, and 19-year-old brother, Abel. The scene was recorded on a video camera that had been a gift to William from campus supporters.

Donors in the ODU community also raised several thousand dollars to make the trip possible. The fundraising drive was coordinated by the Rev. David LaSalle of the Canterbury Center, which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and by Alicia Herr, a senior laboratory specialist for the ODU Department of Chemistry.

"When I saw the video of him meeting his mother, I cried," Herr said.

"This is a wonderful thing people in America did for me," William said. "I hope my supporters can come to the reception on Saturday and hear the full story."
Mayom used donated money for travel and living expenses, as well as to buy clothes and other items such as watches and shoes for his extended family at the refugee camp, which includes one uncle and numerous cousins. "I also bought my mother a necklace, which she liked very much," he said.

The video shows his mother rubbing his forehead during the reunion. "I have a scar there from an accident when I was a very little boy," Mayom said. "When she felt it and saw it, she knew it was me."

His trip was from May 13 until Aug. 12, and he will begin classes again next week. He plans to get the training he needs to become a medical professional, and his goal is to be a medical care provider in southern Sudan.

Mayom, who works at Sentara Bayside Hospital, also got financial assistance for the trip from his co-workers there.

This article was posted on: August 23, 2006

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