DAVID GREENE, HOST:
To begin to understand the cycle of war and suffering in one part of Africa, it is worth meeting one man. His name is Daniel Majook Gai. As a boy, he fled the civil war in Sudan, running miles by himself to safety, leaving his family behind. He was one of the so-called lost boys of that conflict. After years in refugee camps, he landed in the United States. He reunited with his family, got an education and in 2011, returned home to what was now an independent country - South Sudan. But war came back and split that new nation. Daniel was forced to flee again, this time as a young man with a wife, infant son and elderly father.
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DANIEL MJOOK GAI: Running again to the bushes that I ran to when I was only 9 years old. It breaks my heart. I was helpless.
GREENE: That was Daniel when we reached him back in January. A year later, South Sudan is still in a civil war between factions supported by the president and his former vice president. The United States supported South Sudan's independence and thought this young country would be a rare success story in East Africa. But the violence just won't stop. As we close out 2014, we wanted to revisit Daniel, one of the more memorable people we met this year. We reached him in Nairobi, Kenya.
GAI: David Greene, good morning.
GREENE: Good morning to you.
GAI: (Laughter) It's nice to talk to you again.
GREENE: Daniel is living with his wife and his son. His elderly father is still separated from them.
GAI: They are doing fantastic. I can say that. My father is still in a refugee camp in northern part of Uganda. And I spoke with him yesterday. He's doing fine. He's missing home, though. He's missing me. He's missing his grandsons.
GREENE: One of those grandsons is Daniel's young son, who was an infant when he fell ill fleeing last year. He's doing much better now.
GAI: He can speak some few words now - daddy, mommy. And he's acting like the way I was acting when I was a child. (Laughter) So I can see myself in him.
GREENE: That's great.
Daniel's dream is that his son and wife can join Daniel's father and all can move back to South Sudan sometime in 2015. For now, Daniel's been taking trips in and out of the war-torn country, working with a nonprofit group called Project Education South Sudan. The group builds schools. In the area of South Sudan where Daniel's been working, 3,000 boys and girls have been out of class for a year now. Daniel sees hope in the story of one girl. She's 16. Her family so far has supported her completing her education before she marries. Her name is Anna.
GAI: And Anna is from the same community that I was born from. And she has three brothers and a mother. Her father was killed still in the civil war when Sudan was fighting. Anna did not have that much opportunity to go to schools. And what move me about her is a passion of education. You know, education for a girl in South Sudan is not that much. Girls are considered to be married only and start a family.
But now Anna could see her future coming. And she want to be a doctor. She's very good in sciences and languages. These three brothers of her promise her that, we will never ever push you to be married. We want you to go to school. So when I see her in a class of 50 boys and she's the only girl in that class - and she will manage to get to the top of the class - I feel as if we are changing the nation.
GREENE: You told me that you were 90 percent optimistic about the future of South Sudan in January.
GREENE: Are you still that optimistic right now?
GAI: I am still optimistic because of the people. South Sudan, that's where I was born. That's where my grand-grand-grand-grand-parents are. When I look at myself, I feel that it is a call for me as a major leader in our country at least to do something to our people. And so I'm optimistic every single minute that, no matter what, Sudan and South Sudan has been in a war since 1956. But the generations come and go. So I think this is my time to do something to our people in the country.
GREENE: Well, Daniel, I really look forward to talking again. I hope we hear good news about Anna, and I hope we hear good news about you and your family. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.
GAI: It's my pleasure.
GREENE: That's Daniel Majook Gai. He's a director with Project Education South Sudan, and he spoke to us just before taking another trip to do aid work in his home country.
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