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Wallenberg recipient helps 'Lost Boys' and
others from East Africa

By Joel Seguine
Office of the Vice President for Communications
University of Michigan

top photo: Anne Lythgoe, OP

In 1996 Micklina Pia Peter, a young woman refugee from Sudan, was desperate to better herself in a culture where women are commonly kept uneducated.

From Nairobi, Kenya, she wrote a letter to a Dominican nun she had heard about, and now Peter is pursuing a double major in political science and women and gender studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

That Dominican Sister, Luise Radlmeier, will be awarded the 16th Raoul Wallenberg Medal by the University at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in Rackham Auditorium. Provost Teresa Sullivan will introduce Radlmeier, who then will deliver the Wallenberg Lecture. Peter also will speak. The event is free and open to the public.

Contacted by e-mail, Sister Luise says news of the award came as a great surprise.

"I had never expected something like that," she says. "I felt very undeserving for this award, but at the same time grateful, because it will open new doors for funding to help more Sudanese."

The major challenge currently facing Sister Luise, she says, is how to cope with the hundreds of applications of former child soldiers who want to learn a skill in order to return to Sudan and to be self-supporting and to help in rebuilding their country.

Radlmeier was born in Germany to a family who helped feed and shelter Jewish families in World War II. She has worked in Africa since 1956. From her base in northern Kenya, Radlmeier helps refugees from throughout East Africa, focusing in particular on the lost generation of Sudanese youth. She has established dormitories for students, a home for AIDS orphans and HIV-positive children, a clinic, two nursery schools, a primary school and a modest hospital. She especially is committed to supporting the education of children in her care.

Her plan for the near future is to rescue 300 girls from a remote refugee camp where they daily face abuse and exploitation, and to provide them with an education in Nairobi. Radlmeier hopes to eventually secure their resettlement in the West, as she did for the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of young orphaned refugees forced from their villages by war to trek hundreds of miles through African wilderness.

"Sister Luise not only answered my letter and helped me to learn English," says Peter, "but she inspired me to decide how I could make a contribution to the people of the world, especially poor refugee women. I want to be a role model for others as Sister Luise was for me," Peter says.

Along with her studies at Colorado, Peter has found support from the Jewish community in Boulder to sponsor 10 Sudanese girls to come to the U.S. for school. That base of support has broadened so that Peter founded a nonprofit organization, the Committee of Sudanese and American Women/Men, to sponsor more girls. "Our goal right now is to sponsor nine single mothers and 24 girls," Peter says.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish citizen who graduated from the College of Architecture in 1935. In 1944 the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent him on a rescue mission to Budapest, where his incomparable personal courage and ingenuity saved 100,000 Jewish lives.

The Raoul Wallenberg Endowment was established at U-M in 1985 in his memory and to recognize others whose own courageous actions exemplify his extraordinary humanitarian accomplishments and values. Previous Wallenberg Medal recipients include Miep Gies, who supported Anne Frank and her family in hiding, and Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The lecture and medal ceremony are co-sponsored by the Wallenberg Endowment and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

"Lost Boys of Sudan" Find a Voice with Dominican Sister

ANN ARBOR, MI - October 5, 2006 -- Sr. Luise Radlmeier, OP, a Dominican Missionary in Kenya, was awarded the Wallenberg Medal at the University of Michigan October 5th. Read an incredible story about one person making a difference.

Lost Boys of Sudan film

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