For the second consecutive year, students at Hastings Middle School held a one-day walk-a-thon to raise awareness and money for people affected by a long-running civil war in Africa.

For the second consecutive year, students at Hastings Middle School held a one-day walk-a-thon to raise awareness and money for people affected by a long-running civil war in Africa.

Each of the school's 250 sixth-graders took part in roughly one hour of walking May 13 to raise money that will provide much-needed food assistance to villagers in South Sudan during the Hastings Walk-a-Thon for South Sudan.

The project was created by Elizabeth Blank, Janice Daubenmier and Leslie Watkins, all sixth-grade social studies teachers at Hastings, who hoped to bring life to classroom geography lessons and help their students understand the plight of others around the world who face life-threatening challenges such as war, hunger and displacement.

"Through our geography lessons, we learned about the 'lost boys' of South Sudan," Blank said. "We wanted to connect the story to our lessons.

"I think it's global awareness. It allows them to go outside the school building."

"The Lost Boys of Sudan" was a name given to young boys separated from their families and villages in southern Sudan when civil war broke out in the country in 1983.

The war continued until 2005; South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.

According to the International Rescue Committee, some 20,000 boys -- most 6 or 7 years old -- were driven from their homeland during the civil war, with many winding up in refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Among them was Bol Aweng, who participated in the Hastings Walk-a-Thon for the second straight year.

Aweng was 6 when he was separated from his family and his village of Piol. He was forced to travel to Ethiopia, where he stayed for four years until war broke out there.

He spent the following 10 years in Kenya, before being one of 4,000 Lost Boys allowed into the United States through a program offered by the U.S. government.

"My country has been destroyed by the war," Aweng said. "When I left, I didn't have my parents with me. For the 20 years I was away, I didn't know what happened to my family."

Aweng first lived in Nashville when he came to the U.S.

Despite receiving a most basic education in refugee camps, he was able to enroll at Ohio State University, where he earned a degree in digital art.

He returned to Piol in 2007. Although upwards of 2.5 million were killed and displaced during the war, he found his parents had also returned.

While the reunion was a joyous occasion, Aweng was shocked to see his village reduced to a relative smattering of people with virtually no resources, including medical services.

"When I was 6 years old, I knew I had a big village with a lot of people," he said. "The health, the food, the shelter was all missing.

"There was one doctor under a tree. He had a second-grade level in education and all he had was medicine for malaria. Any kind of sickness you had, you only got malaria medicine."

Aweng felt compelled to bring a group of villagers together to found Buckeye Clinic in Piol. It provides immediate medical and wellness needs for 10,000 people in Piol and surrounding villages, promotes hygiene and nutrition and specializes in maternal and child health practices.

"Before the clinic, one in five children didn't live to 5," Aweng said. "We built a clinic that would take care of the mothers and children."

Buckeye Clinic has received more than $50,000 in recent years through various fundraising partnerships with Upper Arlington schools, including Club South Sudan at Upper Arlington High School and the Hastings Walk-a-Thon for South Sudan.

Last year's event raised $3,000; totals from this year's walk-a-thon had not been tallied as of ThisWeek's press time.

Students this year solicited flat donations or pledges based on the number of times they circled the school track May 13.

"They could simply raise awareness about the situation, or they could get donations," Daubenmier said. "It's making geography come alive and, I think, it also teaches empathy for others."