60 Minutes: The Lost Boys – Sudan Civil War Refugees Coming To America


60 Minutes: Lost Boys

Over a decade ago, 60 Minutes profiled the lost boys from Sudan, who survived a civil war in the country that claimed two million lives. Some survivors had the opportunity to relocate to the United States after walking across Africa to a Kenyan refugee camp. Bob Simon reported about what happened in the 12 years since 3000 were successfully relocated to the US.

60 Minutes: Kakuma Refugee Camp

60 Minutes: The Lost Boys - Sudan Civil War Refugees Coming To America

60 Minutes shared a two-part story about the Lost Boys, refugees from Sudan’s civil war who were given the chance to start unfamiliar new lives in America.


It began at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in 2001. A weekly list posted on a bulletin board indicated who would get the chance to relocate to America. A weekly plane would arrive and transport dozens from Africa to America.

Since not everyone would get the chance to head to America, those who saw their names posted were excited about their future. Their destinations included Kansas City, Chicago, and other US cities.

60 Minutes: Sudan Civil War

These men were just children, or “lost boys,” during the Sudanese civil war. The Christian nation was attacked by Islamist armies, and boys formed a mass exodus from their homes. The migration lasted three months.


Some settled in Ethiopia, before being forced out of the country and into the Gilo River. Many died during that chapter of the migration. Some were shot, drowned, or eaten by crocodiles. As many as 2,000 may have died in the river.

60 Minutes: 1000-Mile Migration

Those who survived faced mountains and deserts, without food or water. Paul Deng said that he and others had to drink their own urine to survive. By 1992, after a trip of more than 1,000 miles, the journey ended at Kakuma.

The United Nations recognized this emergent situation, but the boys were thrilled to have their safety after five years of uncertainty and harsh conditions. The boys were displaced in this camp, but in 2000, the boys were invited to move to the United States.

60 Minutes: Lost Boys In America

Before they got their chance, Sasha Chanoff was one of the Americans sent to teach the Lost Boys what they could expect, such as politics and seasons like winter. He had just three days to get them ready for their entire lives to change.

Everything from electricity to utensils would be new to them, and they carried very little with them on their trip. Abraham carried a Bible with him from Ethiopia and eventually to America. A doctor and a priest were among those making the trip, and even planes were also new to them.

60 Minutes: Coming To America

Volunteers helped them learn about everything from sinks and stoves to bathrooms and household appliances, from vacuum cleaners to can openers.

Joseph found a job at a fabric factory and began studying medicine. Abraham joined All Saints, an Episcopal church in Atlanta, where he quickly became a deacon.

60 Minutes: American Fantasy

The size of America, and its stores such as Home Depot, were overwhelming to the newcomers. This was culture shock to an extreme, and the men had a hard time adjusting to the Western world.

They also had difficulty adjusting to the fiction and fantasy of entertainment. “It’s hard for people to distinguish what is reality and what is not,” Chanoff said.

60 Minutes: 9/11 & Lost Boys

The 9/11 terrorist attacks happened just months after the men arrived in America. “It seemed that war is following us,” one of the lost boys said.

But they were not too surprised by the conflagration of Islam and terrorism. They were happy to offer help to the survivors in any way they could, but they were not allowed to donate blood. Instead, they collected $400 in donations, which made them very proud.

60 Minutes: Lost Boys Learn To Drive

Following 9/11, the planes flying Lost Boys into America stopped coming, and those who’d arrived had to endure their first winter. They learned to ice skate and dress for the weather.

Then there was Christmas, a holiday tradition that reporter Bob Simon attempted to explain to some of the Lost Boys. Later adventures included horseback riding and learning to drive.

It’s been 12 years since the boys first came to America.


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