Students broadcast compatriot news worldwide

Two VU students are sharing news of their South Sudanese compatriots with millions worldwide via Voice of America radio.

Cousins Michael Deng, 20, and Ror Akot, 19, combine their studies in VU’s Liberal Arts program with volunteer journalism to spread news about Melbourne’s1800-member-strong South Sudanese community via VOA’s global audience.

Using a modest MP3 recorder, they conduct interviews about local projects involving Melbourne’s South Sudanese, or do ‘vox pop’ interviews with some of its key community members. Their most recent interview featured the newly elected leader of Victoria’s South Sudanese community, Kot Monoah, a well-known western suburbs lawyer and VU alumnus.

The recordings are then transmitted to Washington for use in the VOA’s 30-minute weekday English-language program, South Sudan in Focus. It is broadcast by radio, internet, and social media into South Sudan and beyond.

The program’s Washington-based managing editor and co-host John Tanza Mabusu said he was introduced to the young men on a recent trip to Melbourne.

“They do a great job providing news from Australia that covers the South Sudanese diaspora there.”  

The pair’s first interview for VOA in June highlighted a volunteer-run homework club, SAIL (Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning) program. It helped each of them with school work when they arrived in Sunshine in Melbourne’s west as young children from war-torn South Sudan.

Since then, the two have become mentors for other South Sudanese young people, and continued their connection with SAIL and the broader community in youth leadership roles.

After moving from Sunshine to Fitzroy a few years ago, Ror discovered a talent for writing poems and rapping. He works as a youth ambassador with Yarra City Council, where he was named its 2013 young citizen.

Michael, who now resides in Burnside in Melbourne’s outer west, is also a SAIL leader. He has seen the organisation expand from its initial site in Footscray to four other Melbourne locations, as well as two in Sydney and one in Perth.

“We are very interested in doing what we can to help the country we came from,” Ror said.

“Home to me is where the struggles began and Australia is the land of opportunities. We are determined to use those opportunities.”

VU Liberal Arts instructor Dr Effy George said the young men have helped inspire other members of her course, which introduces university study to students who require extra initial support.

Michael and Ror also appear in an article in The Age.

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