Interview with Jacob Guot, September 22, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Childhood / Scarification ceremony

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Partial Transcript: I'm Jack Wilson interviewing Jacob Guot who was born in the nation of Sudan for the Africans in the Bluegrass Oral History Project at the University of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Jacob Guot came from a big family of farmers and Christians. As a boy, he was trained to take care goats, sheep, and cattle. He had to keep the livestock out of the crops and to keep lions away. He describes his scarification, an important cultural and educational ceremony to show your tribal identity. The scarification now identifies you and is a problem of discrimination in war. There is not scarification anymore.

Keywords: Childhood responsibilities; Dinka Scarification; Sudan; Tradition

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Scarification (Body marking)

GPS: Sudan
Map Coordinates: 15, 32
00:08:54 - War and escape

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Partial Transcript: And the war interfered and what, what happened? What happened to you?

Segment Synopsis: Guot talks about his family as an important family before the war. But when the war came to the village he was not there and he had to run. "You drink your own urine, you eat leaves" for survival. "We had no footprint." They walked 1000 miles to Ethiopia. They got diarrhea and cholera from water. Some drowned crossing the river.

Keywords: Bush; Cholera; Escape from War; Red Cross; Walking to Ethiopia; War

Subjects: Ethiopia; Families.; Refugees

GPS: Sudan
Map Coordinates: 15, 32
GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
00:15:08 - Refugee camp in Ethiopia

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Partial Transcript: So this was--there was a, a, an es, s, stablished, uh, refugee camp in--

Segment Synopsis: Guot describes building houses at the refugee camp. They got food from the UN and started a school under the tree, writing on the ground, on cartons. The UN paid for food and for teachers.

Keywords: Life in refugee camps; Panyundo Refugee Camp; United Nations

Subjects: Education; Refugee camps; Refugees

GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
00:17:54 - Running from Ethiopia to Sudan

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Partial Transcript: And after the four years, what, uh, uh, what did you--where did you go?

Segment Synopsis: The Ethiopians and the Eritrean rebels began a civil war and they had to run. A lot of people died crossing the fast Gilo River, filled with crocodiles, back into Sudan. The Arab militia were on the other side and they shot three people he was with. After six months they were attacked again and they ran to Kenya.

Keywords: Arab militia; Eritrean rebels; Ethiopian government; Gilo River; Kenya; Running from more war

Subjects: Civil war; Refugees; Sudan

GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
GPS: Gilo River
Map Coordinates: 8.133333, 33.2
GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
00:21:32 - Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and, and was there a refugee camp there?

Segment Synopsis: Guot's group came to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya in 1992 and he was there until 2001. It was a hostile situation because the Turkana nomads there wanted the food the refugees were receiving from the UN. They killed his cousin. "We thought we came here for life." They started a school there. He completed seventh grade before coming to the U.S. There were Sudanese, Somali, and Rwandans in the camp.

Keywords: Kakuma Refugee Camp; Life in refugee camps; Rwandan; Schools; Somali; Turkana

Subjects: Education; Kenya; Refugee camps; Refugees

GPS: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
Map Coordinates: 3.716667, 34.866667
00:25:31 - From Kakuma to the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So you were there through 2001. What, what occasioned you to leave from there?

Segment Synopsis: Guot talks about his leadership in the community at Kakuma. In 1999, the UN talked to the U.S. government and asked that some of the Lost Boys come to the U.S. for education. He talks about the process of making files. The Joint Volunteer Agency had to measure the boys to determine ages since there were no records. He tells about "Lost Girls," and says that they are not as visible as the Lost Boys. For boys to be homeless was okay but not for girls; they placed girls with families. There are Lost Girls in the U.S.

Keywords: Joint Volunteer Agency; Kakuma Refugee Camp; Lost Boys; Lost Girls; Process of coming to the U.S.; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); United States

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Refugee camps; Refugees

GPS: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
Map Coordinates: 3.716667, 34.866667
00:30:06 - Arriving in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, so it was through UNHCR that you became a refugee--

Segment Synopsis: There were 20,000 Lost Boys, then 16,000 at Kakuma, then 4000 came to the U.S. before September 11, 2001 cut everything off. Because of security issues after September 11, no more could come. Guot came to New York March 6, 2001. He talks about his first meal in the U.S. He was supposed to be going to Michigan but he was sent to Houston instead. He was made a leader by the Presbyterian Church on the second day. He was in Houston from 2001-2009. He had a cornea transplant which kept him from working for a year. He lived with friends and ate only when they cooked. Guot was scared when he first came to New York because he could see people's breath. "I thought people were burning over here." He was first in a room with people who were not Dinka and didn't want him there, so he had to move. After he recovered from the eye surgery he got a job and the next day was in a car accident and couldn't work for six months. Then he got a job and started at the community college. He passed math and science but not English. After a bad experience with a counselor, the Nigerian head counselor was helpful.

Keywords: Arabic; Community colleges; Cornea transplants; Dinka; English; Houston (Tex.); Jobs; Lack of support; Michigan; New York; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Subjects: Education; Education, Higher; Emigration and immigration.; Higher education; Immigrants; Surgery

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.661, -73.944
GPS: Houston (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.762778, -95.383056
00:47:04 - Education / Experiencing discrimination in Midland, Texas

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Partial Transcript: After that I decide to go to Pennsylvania.

Segment Synopsis: Guot went to Pennsylvania where he had a cousin and friend and got a job. However, his college credits from Houston were not transferable. He returned to Houston to complete ESL at the community college and then transferred to the College of Biblical Studies. A white member of his Methodist Church sent him to Midland, Texas to work in maintenance at his oil pipe making company. He also sent him $5000 for a car but the car he bought from the manager in Midland had no air conditioning. He lived in a hotel, and was harassed by police. "They always asked for ID." He tried to rent an apartment but they wouldn't accept him. He called one church and they wouldn't help and then a pastor of another church came and he got the apartment. He went to one church but he sat by himself. Someone asked him why he kept coming when no one would sit next to him or talk to him. "Do you know nobody like you in this church?" Guot answered: "Do you know Jesus is not an American citizen? " He never went to that church again.

Keywords: Church; College of Biblical Studies; Discrimination by police; Housing; Midland (Tex.); Police

Subjects: Churches; Discrimination.; Education; Education, Higher; Higher education; Immigrants; Race discrimination; Religion

GPS: Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 41, -77.5
GPS: Houston (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.762778, -95.383056
GPS: Midland (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 32, -102.1
00:58:52 - Getting married in Africa

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Partial Transcript: And so how did you happen to leave Midland and where did you go?

Segment Synopsis: Guot got married in 2006 in South Sudan and then he brought his wife to Uganda and then to Kenya to begin the process of bringing her to the U.S. He returned to Houston and worked in security to earn money to support her and fund the process to bring her. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007 and went to Kenya to help her get a visa. "It was a terrible, awful process." She finally came to the U.S. in 2009.

Keywords: Citizenship; Houston (Tex.); Kenya; Marriage; Sudan; Uganda; Visa process for wife

Subjects: Emigration and immigration law--United States; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Marriage

GPS: South Sudan
Map Coordinates: 8, 30
GPS: Uganda
Map Coordinates: 1, 32
GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
GPS: Houston (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.762778, -95.383056
01:02:57 - Lancaster, Pennsylvania / Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, she came to Houston and then, uh, we went to Pennsylvania.

Segment Synopsis: Guot was in Lancaster from 2009 to 2011 with credits transferred. In August 2012 he moved to Wilmore, Kentucky to do his graduate work at Asbury Theological Seminary. He got two masters degrees, in Christian Leadership and Intercultural Studies. He talks about his course in Inductive Bible where he learned to read the Bible differently. "Library was my second wife." His wife took care of the family.

Keywords: Asbury Theological Seminary; Lancaster Bible College; Wilmore (Ky.)

Subjects: Education; Education, Higher; Families.; Higher education

GPS: Lancaster (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 40.039722, -76.304444
GPS: Wilmore (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.861944, -84.661667
01:11:30 - Family

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Partial Transcript: Well, and, and, and tell me something about, uh, about your family.

Segment Synopsis: Guot's first child was born in Kenya in 2008, the second born in Pennsylvania, and the third child born in 2013. His wife is taking ESL classes in Jessamine County and got an award for her good work.

Keywords: Children; English as a second language (ESL); Jessamine County (Ky.); Kenya; Pennsylvania

Subjects: Families.

GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
GPS: Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 41, -77.5
GPS: Jessamine County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.87, -84.58
01:14:11 - Africa Sunrise Communities

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Partial Transcript: Tell me a little something about what--

Segment Synopsis: Guot makes the point that education was not important for his family. He is the first person in his family to have an education, to have one wife, to be an American citizen. The church had a speech therapist work with him to reduce his accent. He talks about his work -- to give hope to South Sudanese. He has founded African Sunrise Communities. He says,"UN helps you to survive, but they don't help you to succeed." He wants to use his education to help people, seeing himself as a Nehemiah. He does workshops for pastors, helps orphans with education. In June 2017 he went to camps in Uganda, Kenya, and to South Sudan to work on reconciliation.

Keywords: Africa Sunrise Communities; Orphans; Purposes of Africa Sunrise Communities; Return to East Africa; United Nations

Subjects: Education; Immigrants; Kenya; Refugees; South Sudan; Uganda

GPS: South Sudan
Map Coordinates: 8, 30
GPS: Uganda
Map Coordinates: 1, 32
GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
01:22:42 - Finding his family

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Partial Transcript: Okay, that, that makes me think, uh, uh. Going way back now but--

Segment Synopsis: In 1997, the UN asked the Lost Boys in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to write letters to South Sudan. The letters went to churches in the villages and that is how he found his mother and learned that his father had died. In 2006 he saw his mother again for the first time.

Keywords: Finding his mother; Kakuma Refugee Camp; Lost Boys; United Nations

Subjects: Families.; Refugee camps; Refugees

GPS: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
Map Coordinates: 3.716667, 34.866667
GPS: South Sudan
Map Coordinates: 8, 30
01:26:01 - His mission in life / Identity

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, I believe you were telling me, uh, just before we started this interview that you are also doing another job here.

Segment Synopsis: Guot works with Independent Opportunities, a low-paying job in which he takes care of mentally challenged persons overnight. It does give him flexibility to also talk to churches and work with his Africa Sunrise Communities organization but not enough money for his family. He talks about his vision for Africa, and the reason for naming his organization Sunrise. He talks about his book "The Lost is Found" and the importance of faith, charity, love. "Instead of reading my head, read my book." He wants to educate Americans about Sudan, including scarification and marriage customs. He talks about what he likes in the U.S. -- opportunity, education, and security. He says his children are American kids, but he and his wife will teach them about his culture. "They will choose." He says he is from South Sudan but he is also an American. "It's both of me. I have to stand in the middle."

Keywords: Africa Sunrise Communities; Authors; Books; Jobs

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment--Kentucky; Families.; Identity (Psychology); Immigrants--Kentucky; Occupations

GPS: South Sudan
Map Coordinates: 8, 30
01:45:07 - More on his mission to help others

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Partial Transcript: Well, Jacob, uh, I've taken a lot of your time this morning, uh, and asked a lot of questions...

Segment Synopsis: People often ask Guot, "Why do you choose to go back again in that bad country, in that mess?" He really wants to help. He wants to use his education back home. His son who is 8 knows that he sends money home from Walmart to help people. His son goes with him to help others. He talks about his prayers.

Keywords: Africa Sunrise Communities; Education; Giving back; Help; Prayer; Praying

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Refugees; Religion

GPS: South Sudan
Map Coordinates: 8, 30