With Mary WilliamsAuthor of Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan is a tale that many Sudanese boys share. The Lost Boys are a group of Sudanese young men who as boys were forced from their homes by a brutal civil war that has raged in their country for decades. While thousands of people were killed, some of the young boys escaped and walked across Sudan into Ethiopia, seeking refuge. A war in that country forced the boys back into Sudan, and they set out on foot once again, this time making it to Kenya where they lived in desert camps for years. The United States eventually began taking these boys in, and some of them have been resettled in various U.S. cities. Telling this story is just one of Williams’ ways to raise awareness about this incredible journey of struggle and survival. Williams is the founder of The Lost Boys Foundation, located in Atlanta, Georgia. The foundation's mission is to assist the Lost Boys (most are now between the ages of 20-30 years old) in attaining a college education.
Since Williams first learned of their story, she has been committed to helping the Lost Boys. “They have been neglected and endured severe hardship Some of them saw their family and friends killed in front of them,” says Williams. “They could be the most angry, bitter people you ever saw. But they aren’t. They are so motivated and eager to get jobs and go to school. I just knew I had to help them.” For the first few years after their arrival, the foundation established numerous programs and resources to provide the young men with mentors, volunteers, improved access to medical and psychological treatment, public speaking opportunities, entrepreneurial endeavors, tutors, networking in professional circles, expanded cultural activities, educational materials/opportunities, employment referrals, and advocacy. “I’ve never met a Lost Boy not interested in bettering himself and his country,” says Williams. “But they are still struggling. They have a lot of different issues.”
Mary Williams has always had the desire to help those less fortunate than her. She began her career by working as a program counselor in a Santa Monica homeless shelter for the mentally ill. She later became became an International Fellow with The International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). She was assigned to Tanzania, Africa, and there she quickly became a Health Outreach Coordinator. Her duties included traveling to remote regions for the purposes of health education and immunization of vulnerable populations. She was also able to solicit tens of thousands of dollars in funds for several locally run environmental, HIV/AIDS, and micro-enterprise programs. Upon her return to the United States, Williams began working as the Resource Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Atlanta’s largest refugee resettlement agency. It was during this time that Williams first learned of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
Mary Williams has not only had an amazing career, but also has a pretty remarkable family. She is the adopted daughter of Jane Fonda and stepdaughter of Ted Turner. At sixteen Mary became a member of Jane Fonda's family, and says that it was Fonda who encouraged her to go to college. "I probably wouldn't have gone to college if not for Jane's support and belief in me.” Williams is determined to help others the way Jane Fonda helped her. Today Mary is a Trustee of the Fonda Family Foundation, Director of the Atlanta Thrashers Foundation and serves on the board of Georgia Perimeter College, an institution that currently enrolls Lost Boys. She also continues to promote the cause of the Lost Boys, and has received media coverage from CNN, ABC Nightline, Oprah, and 60 Minutes II. "Someone took a chance on me," says Mary. "And that's all the Lost Boys want. A chance." Williams resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
For more information or to make a donation to the Lost Boys Foundation please write to:
The Lost Boys Foundation
100 Auburn Avenue Suite 200
Atlanta GA 30303
100% of donations go towards scholarships
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