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CAMPUS DRIVE WILL HELP ODU STUDENT VISIT NATIVE SUDAN

William Mayom, a 24-year-old Old Dominion University student, has not seen his mother since his village in southern Sudan was destroyed during a civil conflict in 1987. But he will have a homecoming with her, a brother and other relatives this spring thanks to a fundraising drive on campus.

Mayom, a pre-nursing student, grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, and emigrated to the United States in 2001. He was one of 3,000 "Lost Boys of Sudan" to get relocation and education assistance from various government and private agencies.

He spent most of his youth thinking he had lost both parents, and all but one of his six siblings during two attacks on his Dinka village. But not long before he left Africa he learned through the Red Cross that his mother and one brother had survived. He has talked with his mother by telephone but has not had the funds to return to Africa to see her.

Alicia Herr, senior laboratory specialist in the ODU chemistry department, and the Rev. David LaSalle, director of the campus's Episcopalian Canterbury Center, took up Mayom's quest in late winter and have been responsible for raising enough money to pay for the $1,500 roundtrip airline ticket from Washington, D.C., to Ethiopia. He leaves in mid-May and returns in early August.

The fundraising drive is continuing in order to pay for Mayom's other expenses during his stay in Africa, including travel from Ethiopia to Kakuma, Kenya, where his mother now lives in a refugee camp. He said he also hopes to raise the standard of living a little for his mother, brother and about a dozen orphaned relatives who live in the camp.

The Canterbury Center, at 1526 W. 49th St., will accept donations to Mayom, said LaSalle. Checks should be made out to the Canterbury Center, with the notation: "for William Mayom." No cash can be accepted.

"We are so happy to help him," LaSalle said by phone. "He is a hardworking, gentle soul. In fact, he is in the center now studying for finals."
Mayom, who works at Sentara Bayside Hospital, also is getting some financial assistance for the trip from his coworkers there.

He plans to continue his studies when he returns to Norfolk and get the training he needs to become a medical professional. His goal is to be a medical care provider in southern Sudan.

This article was posted on: April 19, 2006

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