Sudanese born athlete Guor Maker has been supporting the work of UNHCR since 2012.
Almost two decades after fleeing the violence of Sudan's north-south civil war, Guor ran the marathon (under the name of Guor Marial) in the London 2012 Olympics as an independent athlete under the Olympic flag. He garnered huge respect for his perseverance and determination, and helped to focus fresh attention on his country of origin, which had gained independence as South Sudan just a year earlier.
Guor lost 28 family members during the Second Sudanese Civil War, including eight siblings, and spent much of his early life on the run. He was eventually captured and used as forced labour. In 1994, he joined relatives in the Sudan capital, Khartoum, where he remained until leaving for Egypt at the age of 14. Two years later, he went to the United States, where he was granted refugee status.
In June 2013, to mark World Refugee Day – and after nearly 20 years away – Guor returned to his village in South Sudan from his new home in Arizona. With the help of UNHCR he was reunited with his parents and other family members who had last seen him in 1993. It was an emotional homecoming and he reflected on the cost of war, including the death of siblings from treatable diseases and the suffering of his parents.
Guor hopes his remarkable journey will inspire the next generation of South Sudanese talent. As someone who has lived with the consequences of statelessness, his voice is important in raising awareness about UNHCR’s iBelong campaign to end statelessness.
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