“Newspaper Employee to Nonprofit Director: A Photojournalist’s Journey”
-Christopher TyreeAs he stood beside a dirt airstrip in the remote village of Akobo in southeastern Sudan, Dr. Michael Tut Pur squinted into the scorching afternoon sun. An ancient DC-3 banked to land. Months of anticipation showed in his round dark face as the plane kicked up a cloud of red dust. The plane carried boxes of medical supplies—surgical instruments and vital antibiotics—that his hospital staff desperately needed. But the plane’s passengers were its most precious cargo. Villagers had gathered to greet them. (Story continues below.)
As cows grazed on the runway, screaming children swarmed around the new arrivals. Dr. Tut Pur’s infectious smile warmly greeted the nine men. It had been more than a year since the 10 of them had been with each other, though their epic journey together seemed like it began a long, long time ago. Friends now, they were children then, so-called “Lost Boys” fleeing the southern region of Sudan on the heels of a civil war. They were among the thousands of frightened refugees who fled Sudan to escape the fighting between the Muslim-controlled government and Christian rebels in the south.
Now, more than two decades later, these 10 men—trained as doctors—were together in a part of the world desperately in need of their expertise. Samaritan’s Purse Canada, First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, Virginia, and the University of Calgary arranged for and funded this reunion. They also supplied medical instructors and support staff as part of this weeklong homecoming trip. It was part of a continuing education program that had begun in Canada in 2005 after Dr. Tut Pur and his friends arrived there as immigrants from Cuba.
Stephen Katz and I, cofounders of Wéyo, a nonprofit that utilizes the power of narrative storytelling to help nonprofits and NGOs, were hired to document the remarkable journey so the story could be shared with supporters of the mission and potential funders.
Read more about this trip in Need Magazine.Selected as being among the brightest of 600 children, these boys had been sent to Cuba and educated as doctors. As youngsters, they barely escaped their country’s civil unrest by crossing the river near Akobo, across from Ethiopia. Now they had returned to the country of their birth as doctors. In treating those who had once fought against them, these young men were providing hope for peace and reconciliation in this still war-torn land.