At age 3 Manyang became a refugee of the Sudanese civil war. For 13 years he lived in refugee camps along the Sudanese and Ethiopian border, where homelessness, hunger, fear, and abuse were part of his everyday life. He started Humanity Helping Sudan to improve the lives of Sudanese refugees and attempt to battle the problems of an entire displaced population. Here's what he has to say about his project.
How did you feel when your first learned of the problem you are addressing?
This question is difficult to answer because it has been in existence since before I was born. I have always been aware of this problem.
How do you feel about it now?
I feel that I can help solve this problem by bringing awareness to it and informing influential people who can bring a solution.
What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
I first began the Humanity Helping Sudan Project with my dear friend, Wiyual, in mind. He functioned as an older brother when I had nobody to care for me. After he died from cholera, the memory of how he helped me remained in my mind.
Who or what is your inspiration to keep going?
Even though I am a human being like everybody else, I was not always treated as such. My life was not promised; I could have never imagined that I would be in a position to help others. The Humanity Helping Sudan was founded to restore human dignity and love for those who’ve lost their homes, their countries, their parents, and essentially everything.
Can you describe the moment you knew that you were actually making a difference?
During the summer of 2011, the Humanity Helping Sudan Project successfully bought several acres of land toward building a community garden, for those who are in need of food and have never owned their land. This was one of the moments when I was sure that we were making a difference.
What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start your project? When you were growing it?
[M]aking people in America care about an issue that does not directly affect them [is hard].
What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
It’s a tough task to get people to take time away from their own lives, priorities, and responsibilities, to help my project. I’m not famous. I’m just a regular guy, so people do not always have an incentive to help my mission.
What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
I’m most surprised that I am able to help and impact the lives of so many. I never could have dreamed that this all would be possible. The reality still has not settled in yet.
What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off of the ground?
My advice would be to always have persistence and love what you do.
If you could have done one thing differently based on what you know now, what would it be and why?
Despite the challenges and roadblocks, I believe that everything has happened as it should have. I have no regrets.
What’s next for your project?
When I travel to Sudan and Ethiopia this summer, I want to reach a larger audience and teach them the importance of farming and manual labor.
And finally, if you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
Wow! I would have to choose George Clooney, Will Smith, Halle Berry, or Angelina Jolie. I chose these celebrities because they all share a humanitarian passion; they are wise and understanding of a better world.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about the Do Something Awards Semi-Finalists.