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Logos photo by Larry Folarin Freshman Jay Gatkuoth (left) took the long way to becoming a NIACC student.

Gatkuoth has long journey to NIACC

Larry Folarin
Staff Reporter

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has had to overcome while trying to succeed.”

Jay Gatkuoth, a freshman at NIACC currently studying Science of Sociology, has been through many obstacles with his family.

Gatkuoth left South Sudan with family in 1999 when war divided the two biggest tribes in South Sudan, Nure and Dinka.

Gatkuoth is a member of the Nure tribe.

“The civil war claimed the lives of thousands of people, and forced many to flee away to neighboring countries,” Gatkuoth said.

Gatkuoth and his family had moved to Ethiopia, where they eventually landed in the refugee camp of Ponyidu.

Gatkuoth’s mother died when he was seven years of age due to the war.

After the death of his mother, Gatkuoth’s father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, a rebel movement.

Gatkuoth said his grandma struggled to raise ten grandchildren with little reliable source of income coming from his father and family members, which was not enough to feed everybody in the family.

While at the refugee camp, Gatkuoth attended a small Christian primary school organized by Ethiopian Christian organization where he learned a little English.

Classes were held in small huts, which were barely suitable for living.

Gatkuoth said he and his classmates would sometimes miss school due to the war.

He said the Dinka tribe would attack the Nure tribe due to shortages of food and water.

The violence between the two tribes in the camp often prevented the children from playing with each other due to their differences of ethnic background.

Before the year ended, Gatkuoth’s family left Ethiopia for America.

They had left their relatives in Ponyidu to travel thousands of miles across the White Nile River to a refugee camp in the Blue Nile River where their immigration documents were processed.

Gatkuoth and his family managed to survive the journey, living on fruits and food cans.

In November of 1999, Gatkuoth and his family arrived in Ababa International Airport in Ethiopia.

It was indeed a long journey and by December they arrived at Salt Lake City, Utah, where they were welcomed by some of their family members.

In 2003, Gatkuoth’s family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where they continue to live and call home.

Gatkuoth said he has the desire to return to South Sudan someday, and help his fellow Sudanese.

“I plan to help the country fight against tribalism which is at the heart of issue facing South Sudan as well as share the teaching of gospel, and work along with the community to fight against poverty, solve conflict, restoring peace and unity among the Sudanese,” Gatkuoth said.