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April 09. 2013 10:49PM

NH campus leaders honored in Bedford for commitment to community

BEDFORD - Student leaders from 22 colleges and universities in the Granite State were honored Tuesday with the Presidents' Leadership Award from the Campus Compact for New Hampshire, a consortium of college and university presidents from 22 institutions, both public and private, that strives to make civic engagement a part of campus life.

Peter Nhiany of Granite State College was one of those honored. Nhiany, who is pursuing a master of science in leadership, is one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, children who became separated from their families during that country's civil war in 1983.

Nhiany was honored by the Campus Compact for his work in co-founding Life for Sudan, a nonprofit organization that provides support for the Sudanese population in Manchester and sponsors educational initiatives for orphaned children in South Sudan.

For Nhiany, the road to establishing the nonprofit began in 2006 when he attended a staged demonstration in Manchester that called attention to the atrocities being committed in Egypt at the time. It was there that he met and struck up a friendship with Dennis Sasseville of Bedford.

"It wasn't much of a demonstration to speak of," said Sasseville. "I think there were more reporters than demonstrators. But Peter got up there and spoke to the press, and I've got to say that I was impressed with the way he handled himself and the passion he had for the cause."

After Nhiany got through speaking to reporters, Sasseville, an environmental and sustainability consultant, approached Nhiany, kicking off the collaboration. Sasseville helped write the bylaws and helped get Life for Sudan recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. "Peter's a great guy; he amazes me with all his enthusiasm," said Sasseville. "He's got a lot of energy."

The civil war in southeast Sudan broke out after the government in the northern part of the country sought to impose Sharia law on the entire population. "That did not click with us, so our villages in the south were attacked repeatedly," said Nhiany. "I fled and got separated from my family when I was 9. I did everything that I could do to survive."

In addition to Nhiany and the other students, the Campus Compact yesterday recognized the work done by the Manchester chapter of Nursing Students Without Borders, which offers health care services to underprivileged communities locally and overseas. Members of the organization have worked to bring medical care to Ecuador and plan to travel to Guatemala this summer to do the same thing.

Debby Scire, executive director of the Campus Compact for New Hampshire, said the awards banquet is now in its 10th year. "These awards spotlight just some of the amazing work New Hampshire's college students like Peter Nhiany do every day to improve the lives of those in need," she said. "Our member colleges and universities are dedicated to creating oppoertunities for such work through campus programs and support structures that help students develop a deep understanding of civic and social issues while strengthening communities in ways that will make a lasting difference.

One of the goals of Life for Sudan is to increase the educational opportunities for the young people of that nation. "The war devastated the whole country. There are no schools, no hospitals," said Nhiany. "I need to help other kids who were in my same situation."

hmetz@unionleader.com



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