I was born Johnson Ngor in 1978 in Aweil, Southern Sudan. My father named me Garang, meaning ‘the first man’. In the 1980’s civil war broke out and my father strongly opposed the Government. As a result, he fled to Ethiopia for safety. From Ethiopia he sent my mother a letter telling her to come to Ethiopia. My sister was four and therefore had to stay with my Grandmother. My mother and I, with nearly 2000 other women and children, began the walk to Ethiopia. We walked during the night amongst the lions and we tried to remain hidden behind bushes so the soldiers did not see us. We knew if we were found we would be killed or taken as slaves. During this journey we had to cross the Nile River, this is where my mother drowned along with many other women and children.
It took me three months to reach the refugee camp in Ethiopia. When I arrived relatives told me my father had died, he was killed when Government soldiers attacked the refugee camp where he was staying. I was seven and had lost both my parents and did not know if my sister had survived. As a result, I was one of the lost boys of Sudan. 20,000 boys were displaced or orphaned by the civil war.
In Ethiopia I was an orphan and therefore was sent to a school of 20 000 students called Pope John Paul II. I was a good student but I was not very happy because I missed my parents terribly. Ethiopia offered little shelter, like Sudan it was a nation wracked by war. As a result of the unrest we had to flee the school. We moved to the Sudan border but our camp was attacked, many children were killed, so we moved back inside the border of Ethiopia.
At the age of 20 I was admitted to Australia as a refugee. I arrived in Tasmania in 2002 at the age of 22. It was in 2003, after 17 years of not knowing, I found out my sister was still alive. I had been separated from my sister when she was four and I was seven. I went to see her for the first time in 2007. I arrived at the airport in Khartoum and a taxi took me to her street. When I arrived there were many people standing around watching, I stopped and was looking and thinking ‘who would be my sister’? The people were murmuring but suddenly I saw a lady looking down at me from a balcony and I just knew she was my sister. I ran straight to her and she was just standing there still, then she started to cry. Most of the people standing there watching us could not come to me and say hello because they did not know who I was. When I started to talk to them many started laughing and some people were crying. One of them, my Auntie, said to me, “let me first see your teeth”. Then she said, “Your teeth look like my brother’s teeth. I believe that you are my brother’s son!”
I now have my own family including two young children. I am a community worker in the Parramatta diocese and have almost completed an economics degree. I had no access to education as a child and therefore I know its importance, this is why I am so dedicated and passionate about opening up a school for girls in my hometown. I truly believe ‘educate a woman, educate a nation’.
Media references to Johnson Ngor
29 June 2011
Sydney Catholic News
Call for compassion and understanding
28 September 2008
Section 3 – No place to belong
26 August 2010
Jonathon speaking at schools
14 August 2008
13 May 2007
Global justice is all we want