Imagine this: You have been traveling in the desert for a year. You are hundreds of miles away from your family and lack access to food or water, and your home is being attacked by soldiers. These are the circumstances that the people of South Sudan have to face.

Imagine this: You have been traveling in the desert for a year. You are hundreds of miles away from your family and lack access to food or water, and your home is being attacked by soldiers. These are the circumstances that the people of South Sudan have to face.

The students of Bexley Middle School have been learning about South Sudanese refugees and the struggles they face both in their homeland and in the United States. We have spent the last few weeks trying to comprehend their history and their circumstances.

"We take things for granted, but they are things that (the people of Piol) don't have," said Ford Cowan, a Bexley Middle School seventh-grader.

BMS students have talked to one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," Bol Aweng. Aweng comes from the village of Piol, South Sudan, which was bombed and raided during both Sudanese civil wars.

"(Our project) has helped me get a new perspective," seventh-grader Gavi Steinman said.

Another BMS student, Katie Millard, said that our service learning experience has been "very humbling."

Aweng describes his village before the wars using adjectives like "lush and green," as shown in his painting The Last Memory. When the fighting started in 1983, the rebels forced young boys from villages to fight in the wars. The boys who ran when the fighting started are called Lost Boys.

Aweng, along with thousands of other children who fled, walked for thousands of miles through the desert to Ethiopia. They camped there for a year or so, before being pushed out by the fighting and the government. By this time, more than 10,000 of them had died.

They then traveled to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they were separated into groups based on family. In the camps, many people died and others got sick. Of the approximately 35,000 who started the journey, only about 16,000 made it to Kenya. Signs were posted in the refugee camps saying that they would be heading to America. Only some were selected and two of those ended up here in Columbus: Aweng and his cousin, Jok. Columbus now has the second-highest refugee population in the United States.

The fighting recently started again as the Dinka and Nuer, two large ethnic tribes, went to war. The villages are in rubble and the South Sudanese people have been unable to plant crops, leaving Piol in a state of famine.

About 10 million people in South Sudan are insecure about their food. The current infant mortality rate in South Sudan is 64 per every 1,000 live births. For comparison, the infant mortality rate in the United States is six per every 1,000 live births.

Now, realizing how fortunate we are, the students of BMS are joining forces with several businesses and organizations and using fundraisers at school to raise money for the people of Piol and for the refugee assistance organization CRIS.org.

Over the coming weeks, Bexley students will host such activities as a 3K Fun Run, a carnival, a pie-your-teacher-in-the-face event and a snow cone sale. Our goal of $6,500 would provide a shipment of food and part of a fence to corral the cattle that the South Sudanese use for food and currency.

This is the fourth time that the project has helped the people of Piol.

"The South Sudan project is one of the coolest things I've seen in my years of teaching," BMS teacher Sara Robertson said. I think that it is amazing that such a small group of kids can raise so much money!"

"Every year, I see a spark in my students as they're inspired to help," teacher Elizabeth Jax added.

Schools notebook is provided to ThisWeek Bexley News by the Bexley City School District. Zachary Brooks and Clare Martin are seventh-grade students at Bexley Middle School.