At age 3, Manyang Kher (pronounced mun-yung) became one of the “Lost Boys”. It was the name associated with the 20,000 children who were displaced and orphaned by the civil war in Sudan. For much of his life, Manyang lived in refugee camps along the Ethiopian border, where the perils of war were now his new normal. He lived in the refugee camp most of his young life suffering through abuse, hunger, and fear. At age 17 he was fortunate enough to come to the United States via the United Nations and the Catholic Charities agency.
Through all of the dangers, toils, and snares Manyang kept telling himself, “It may be raining, but at some point, it is going to stop.” Fiercely holding on to this mantra he landed in a group home in Richmond, VA and speaking no more than conversational English upon arrival, he completed his High School studies and college at the University of Richmond. Manyang has completed his Bachelors and is pursuing his educational career in International Law. In college he was an activist for Sudanese refugees and for youth unemployment in the African regions. He has never lost his passion for his homeland and travels to Ethiopia regularly to visit the same refugee camp where he spent 13 years of his life.
His organization Humanity Helping Sudan was formed in 2008 when he was 19 and spearheads initiatives to train the people in the refugee camp so that they will know how to become proficient in business. Manyang says, “We’ve been going to the camp since 2008 digging Water Wells. We maintain the wells that have been broken by the church groups who come to put in the wells but do not maintain them. We take people from the U.S. and local people who know how to maintain the wells. We also have a community garden outside the camp in the region.”
After graduation, Manyang started 734 Coffee to help fund Humanity Helping Sudan projects and programming. 734 Coffee creates jobs in the African region and in the U.S. and then creates a bridge for people to actually become educated about refugees. The coffee is sourced in the region of South Sudan border and Ethiopia.
“I want to tell the story of refugees turned entrepreneurs who work as farmers,” said Manyang. “The whole idea is that refugees come to America for a better life and to help people back home. They want to give back to their community. 734 helps people where they are by creating a job at home and a job abroad. Profits from 734 Coffee gives full scholarships to refugees for college.” To date, 734 Coffee has given ten scholarships to students. Manyang knows he is one of the lucky ones to successfully leave the refugee camp. He is determined to pass on his success and to never take his luck for granted.