Several Islanders have come together in an effort to help Jacob Acier, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” realize his dream to be reunited with his family in Africa.
The group, calling itself Jacob’s Ladder, is working with Acier to raise money for his trip to Uganda, where his mother, two brothers and sister are living in a refugee camp. The group also wants to help him cover some of his current financial needs, including his medical and dental expenses.
Liz Shepherd, one of the organizers, said the Islanders, some of whom attend his church, St. John Vianney, are motivated by his remarkable story as well as his warm and gracious personality.
“You meet Jacob and you see this amazing person who has been through so much and yet is still so positive and so focused in terms of his goals. And it’s inspiring,” Shepherd said. “He’s just overwhelmingly a great young man.”
Acier, 24, fled his traditional Sudanese village when he was a small child, joining a stream of people — many of them young boys like himself — trying to escape the civil war that continues to rip at the fabric of his country. He spent many years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya before arriving in the United States, knowing virtually nothing about modern-American culture, in 2002. Last fall, he moved to Vashon, after getting a job at Pacific Research.
His story is particularly poignant because of his recent rediscovery of his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 17 years. Another Lost Boy found her in a Ugandan refugee camp, snapped her picture and gave it to Acier, who has since talked to her on the phone several times and is eager to be reunited with her.
Acier wants to help his mother return to the village where they once led a peaceful and agrarian lifestyle. But Shepherd said what Acier wants to do is not only expensive; it’s also difficult. The group wants to help Acier navigate the complexities of international travel, refugee camps and resettlement as well as find someone who would be willing to travel with Acier as a support person.
“It’s a complicated goal. There are many different pieces,” Shepherd said. “We’re working through all the steps to make this become a reality.”
Acier also needs support in getting more completely settled on Vashon, Shepherd said. She added, however, that he has already been warmly received and supported.
“Vashon is a wonderful place for Jacob to be right now,” she said. “He needs a village, which is what we are.”
How to help
Jacob Acier will talk about his flight from Sudan and his life in refugee camps at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at the Vashon Methodist Church. A light potluck supper will be available. The gathering is sponsored by the Methodist Church and Havurat Ee Shalom.
Donations can be made to the Jacob Acier Group at an account set up at the Vashon branch of Bank of America.