Courtesy: Biar Atem
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War in the South Sudan severed an entire generation of Lost Boys from their birthplace and their families. Biar Atem is one of them. From age 7 to 21 he lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. “All those years I spent looking for a home,” says Atem (pictured above, third from left, as a child with his family). When at last he found one—in Las Vegas in 2001— he took a job as a janitor at the Sands casino. But finding a new home didn’t mean he’d forgotten the old one—or the challenges faced by fellow Sudanese who had made the journey to the States. After completing his high school education in Vegas, then earning a bachelor’s in accounting and then an MBA, he recently established the nonprofit South Sudan Center of America in order to provide job training and teach financial literacy to immigrants. The center won’t just be a place for classes, though. Atem always intended it to serve as a place of social and emotional support for his Sudanese compatriots, some of whom still struggle with loneliness and the trauma of what they experienced. The aim is to make it feel as easy and comforting as a parent’s or grandparent’s house, says Atem, whose wife is now expecting their first child: the sort of place “where you can catch up on life, and what you’re going through.”