In 1986, Deng Thiak Adut was a six-year-old boy growing up in Sudan when he was conscripted to fight in the Second Sudanese Civil War. His troop of child-soldiers lived off the land while marching 33 days into Ethiopia and going into battle against the Sudan People's Liberation Army. "We were slaughtered," Adut recalls. After six years of fighting, Adut was wounded, and then reunited with his brother. Both were weary of war, and Adut was smuggled away from the conflict into Kenya, hiding in a corn sack in the back of a truck. In Kenya, the brothers found help at a UN compound, and eventually were sponsored by an Australian family and granted refuge in Blacktown, near Sydney.
Without school from age 6 to 13, he was illiterate, so he taught himself English by chatting with locals at a nearby gas station. Eventually he earned a high school diploma, and enrolled in law school. On the night before graduation, remembering how far he'd come, Adut wept until he couldn't physically cry anymore. Today he is being praised for supporting Sudanese refugees in court and in the community.