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Dignity Health
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Dignity Health

Jany Deng never had a childhood.


Dignity Health

He was only 10 when civil war broke out in his homeland of South Sudan. Orphaned and faced with no other choice for survival, Deng had to flee the country alone, walking more than 2,000 miles towards Ethiopia. He often had nothing to eat or drink. "We have to walk for a month, a day, a year, just wondering wherever we can get safety," Deng recalls.

Months later, he reached a refugee settlement where he was able to live for several years. But in 1991, war broke out again. This time, Deng had to walk 2,500 miles towards Kenya.

Deng and the other boys he walked with became known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan" by the aid workers who helped them resettle in America.


Dignity Health

Deng came to this country not knowing the language or the customs. It was an extreme culture shock. But thanks to his foster mother, a "remarkable and nurturing woman," Deng learned he could expect some good from this new world, and others would be there to help him.

Sure enough, Deng realized that whenever he needed help, there was always someone to show him the way. So he made himself a promise — when he was in a position to do so, he'd help others, too.

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Courtesy of Back on My Feet
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Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."

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