Imagine if you had to leave the place you were born and start over in a completely new country, with an unfamiliar culture, a completely new language, and very little support. Now imagine that the reason you had to leave was to escape an almost certain death from armed militia, wild animals, starvation, or harsh surroundings. This is what happened to Magic Moments recipient Peter Panther growing up in South Sudan.
Peter is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. At 8 years old, marauding terrorists on horseback invaded and burned his village, assaulting women and men, and taking young boys from their homes to be soldiers. Peter’s father told him to leave the village so that he could have a good life, so Peter began a four-month journey to refugee camp in Ethiopia, joining up with other boys and girls also fleeing their homes. They walked barefoot through the jungle and swam across the Nile river among crocodiles. They watched their companions, who had become family, perish along the journey from starvation, dehydration, disease, animal attacks, and soldier attacks. Eventually, Peter ended up in a United Nations settlement called Kakuma, where he lived for nine years among other children separated from their families. Peter was never able to reunite with his family; instead, in April 2001, he began a new journey to the United States and ended up in Lincoln.
The power of hard work
Peter started his life in Lincoln in a group home with other boys from Africa. He had never seen winter, didn’t know what pizza was, and just generally did not know how to live this new life. But, he worked hard and graduated from Lincoln High in 2007 and went on to become a U.S. citizen in 2009. In 2010, he returned to Uganda to marry his girlfriend, Anneta, from the camp. The couple started a family and have three boys: Marcus, Bol, and Akol. Marcus and Akol now live with the couple in Lincoln, but Bol is still living in Africa with relatives while he awaits his visa.
Peter and his family were nominated by Nancy Heiser and Patti Anderson because of how caring and generous he is despite the hardships he’s faced. He works hard, often working two jobs to make ends meet, and he cares for his family above all else — both his immediate family and the people they’ve met along the way who have become like a second family. Nancy and Patti agree that Peter and his family deserve an extra special holiday, and Union Bank is so glad to be able to help.
Thanks to generous donations, the Panther family received memberships to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and Lincoln Children’s Museum. They also received comfy blankets to keep warm this winter and supplies for Akol, including a crib, mattress and sheets, and a car seat. Peter received a Super C gift card for gas, as well as a winter coat, gloves, hat, and slippers. He also received a laptop computer. Anneta was given a gift card to Kohls for new clothes and shoes, some relaxing bath products and comfy slippers, as well as winter gear from Charlotte. Marcus and Akol both got winter coats, hats, and gloves, as well as some toys and gear featuring their favorite superheroes, new books, a Hot Wheels track, and more.
The Panther family has experienced so much that most of us could never comprehend, and the strength and determination it takes to keep pushing forward and create a better life is awe-inspiring. We’re so thankful to have been able to pamper this family for the holidays.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about the Lost Boys of Sudan, check out the documentary The Lost Boys of Sudan or the feature-length drama, The Good Lie.