LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's been more than 30 years since a civil war broke out in the east African country of Sudan, when Muslim militias from the north invaded Christian villages, with the intent to kill every male child in the region.
Abraham Aluel is a survivor, known as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He was one of 20,000 boys who fled their homes in the 1980's to escape the genocide. More than half died during their thousand-mile journey on foot to neighboring Ethiopia. Abraham was just 9.
"Only dried corn, dried beans and oil. For three years. That's the only thing we ate. No veggies, no meat. So, it was horrible, but you had no choice," Abraham said.
When a civil war broke out there, the group headed for Kenya where they spent the next nine years living in mud huts, without electricity or toilets. Many survived by sucking the water out of mud.
Their first chance at freedom arrived in 2001, when close to 4,000 refugees came to America. Abraham was among the hundred or so who found a home in Louisville.
"What he's gone through to get where he is is pretty amazing," Sara Duplessiss Young, a physician assistant, with Norton Children's Orthopedics of Louisville said.
Today, he's a radiology technician working with the youngest patients, at Norton Children's Orthopedics of Louisville. His specialty is lightening the mood with a little humor in what can be nerve-racking situations.
"Some of [the kids] say, 'why do you look like chocolate?'" Abraham said. "I tell them, that's how God created me. And I say, 'If you go to my homeland, I'm sure they'll be like, hmm...why you look like that?'"
In 2007, he managed to find the family he'd left behind all those years ago.
"That was the first time I saw my mom in 20 years," Abraham said.
Today, he's a husband and father of 5. He talks to kids in school, hoping to put our first world problems in perspective.
"When I was about their age, what we were fighting for was not what to play with, but what to eat," Abraham said. "It's really very important for us, who make it here, if we have this opportunity, we have to utilize it and help our people back home."
At night, he works extra jobs as a Lyft and Uber driver, sending money back home to his family, hoping one day to build a school in his former village, where kids aren't getting an education.
"We cannot turn our back because we know the life we went through is really horrible. God protected us getting here. We have to give back," he said.
When asked where he wants to end up, Abraham said, he'd love to go back to school and eventually move back to Sudan. But with current immigration laws, only certain members of his family can come to the states and the Sudanese government is still very unstable.