Jany Deng never had a childhood.
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.
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.