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Lost Boy to reunite with his mother

Jacob Acier, right, will travel to Uganda with Levin Pugsley, left. - Leslie Brown/staff photo
Jacob Acier, right, will travel to Uganda with Levin Pugsley, left.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

Jacob Acier last saw his mother 15 years ago, when he was a 7-year-old boy forced to flee his village in the high plains of Eastern Africa.

In an amazing turn of events, this Lost Boy of Sudan expects that he will soon see her again.

Thanks to an advance from Sawbones, where he works, the support of a group of Islanders and his own considerable legwork, Acier has secured a travel visa and plane tickets to fly to Africa. If all goes according to plan, he’ll leave next week, accompanied by Islander Levin Pugsley, who will act as a support person during what could at times be a tricky journey.

Acier, in a recent interview at Café Luna, said he’s amazed that this dream — conceived several months ago, when he discovered his mother was still alive — is about to come true. So is his mother, he said.

“Yesterday, she was so excited,” he said in his rich accent, a radiant smile on his face. “I told her I’m definitely coming.”

But the trip likely won’t be easy, and many details are still up in the air. Because he’s a refugee, Acier, 23, can’t return to Sudan; if he did, he could lose his refugee status in the United States, members of his support group said.

As a result, he and Pugsley will meet Acier’s mother and other members of his large, extended family in neighboring Uganda, where they plan to rent a home for a few weeks.

But the rental hasn’t yet been secured. And his mother, Acier said, is not healthy.

Other factors could make the trip complex, he added. His father was killed when their village was overrun during Sudan’s civil unrest, making Acier — the oldest male in the family — responsible for a number of family matters.

“There are a lot of problems, and they want me to help,” he said.

The responsibilities weigh on Acier, he acknowledged. At the same time, Acier, who attends St. John Vianney Catholic Church, said he believes God played a hand in his amazing escape from his war-torn country and his eventual arrival on Vashon. He also feels enormous gratitude and a determination to give back, he said, something he can do more easily if he’s living in the United States.

“I made a decision that if people help me, I’m going to help other people,” he said.

“Some people say, ‘Jacob isn’t going to come back,’” he added. “I’m not going to stay there. I’m going to meet them, make sure I have a family and come back.”

Echoing the words of another Lost Boy, he added: “We’re the seeds for change in Sudan.”

Acier’s story has touched a number of people on Vashon, and since his arrival on the Island in October 2007, this Lost Boy of Sudan has become a beloved member of the Vashon community.

Several of those Island friends formed the Jacob Acier Group several months ago as a way to formally assist him. They’ve raised nearly $20,000 to help him pay off some debts and get his mother and sister out of a refugee camp in Uganda and back to their home village in Sudan. They’ve also worked with Acier to help him realize his greatest dream — a reunion with his family.

Constance Walker, an Islander active at St. John Vianney who has sometimes acted as a surrogate mother to Acier, said she was deeply moved when she learned the gold bracelet he wears on his wrist came from his mother, the only item he has from her. The group has done much to help him, she noted; all along, though, it was this reunion with his mother that motivated her the most, she said.

The trip will entail risks, she acknowledged. It’s possible, because of some legal problems from several years ago, for instance, that he won’t be allowed back into the country, she and others said. But the risks seem small, she said, especially in light of all that he’s already been through.

“The fact that he’ll soon be able to give his mother a hug is just worth everything,” she said.

To help Jacob Acier with his trip, donations can be made to the Jacob Acier Group at the Bank of America on Vashon.

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