A 'lost boy' of South Sudan now building a school in his troubled homeland was recognised as Victoria University’s young achiever of the year at its annual Alumni Awards.
Samuel Manhom, 34, of North Melbourne, has worked tirelessly to improve not only his own life, but those of his compatriots since arriving in Australia in 2004 as a 21-year-old refugee following many years in Ethiopian and Kenyan camps.
Once here, he worked by day and studied by night at VU, progressively completing foundation courses, a double-degree in accounting, banking and finance in 2010, and finally a Master of Business in 2012.
During those years, he never forgot the small town of Rumbek he was forced to flee during civil war, nor the countless South Sudanese children missing out on their own chance for education.
With the help of the Rotary Club of Manningham, Samuel is building a community-based school for about 200 children – the Melbourne Rumbek School. The Club sponsored him to return to South Sudan to initiate the project in 2011 – the first time in more than 20 years he’d returned to his homeland.
"I’m not considered a hero in Rumbek, but I am considered to be among the lucky few," he says. "Building a school recognises the generosity and willingness of Australians to help – a support that I experienced as soon as I arrived."
Fundraising for the $100,000 school is gaining pace in Australia. Land was granted by the local chief, and construction is scheduled to begin next year.
As Samuel's long-held plan to build a school in Rumbek draws closer to being realised, he works as an accounts officer for the National Sterling Group. He credits much of his professional success to his time at VU.
"I was attracted to Victoria University because of its reputation for valuing cultural diversity and its commitment to excellence and innovation. Their courses motivated me and provided me with the right tools for my personal development, and most importantly, with abilities to contribute to the community."