Sudan's Lost Boys Hire Euro to Find Spotlight

Refugee Organization Hopes to Shift Some of the Media Attention on Darfur to Plight of Other Region

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After 22 years of war left southern Sudan one of the most devastated spots on Earth, a group of former refugees is struggling to raise awareness for its plight at a time when an equally tragic genocide in another region of the country -- Darfur -- is dominating media attention and humanitarian appeals.
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The Lost Boys logo was applied to T-shirts given to those who donate $100.

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What to do? Get an ad agency.

The Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan -- an organization that counts nine of that country's famed "Lost Boys" as directors -- has tapped Euro RCSG, Chicago, to boost its charitable brand.

Euro has already designed a logo for the organization and is working on marketing materials and a website to raise money and awareness for southern Sudan as a Sudanese genocide to the north overshadows the lasting damage from the one that earlier ravaged the south.

Funding statistics bear that out: U.S. assistance to Sudan totaled $538 million in 2007, according to ReliefWeb, a United Nations website that tracks humanitarian aid. Of that, $74.4 million was in block grants specifically designated for Darfur, while $13.5 million was earmarked to the south. (Much of the nondesignated funding likely wound up in both regions.)

"The international community has shifted to look at the region of Darfur, which is on the media every time," said Samuel Anei, one of the Lost Boys and a director of the organization. Some of the attention, he said, "has to come back."

Support on the sleeve
The full extent of Euro's effort for the Lost Boys isn't yet known, but in addition to the website and branding, it will involve direct-mail appeals. The logo is being applied to T-shirts awarded to $100 donors. The first went to Bill Clinton, who received one from two Lost Boys -- including Mr. Anei -- who were students at a Clinton Global Initiative summit earlier this month.

The former refugees hope their agency can help them better tell their remarkable and heartbreaking stories. Mr. Anei was 7 years old when government-backed militias attacked and destroyed his village. He and thousands of other young boys, spent the next 14 years traveling on foot from refugee camp to refugee camp in places such as Ethiopia and Kenya, mindful of threats from militias, lions, famine and draught that killed many of them in between. More than 3,000 ultimately settled in the U.S. as refugees.

Few girls made it to the camps because most were raped, killed or taken as slaves by the government-backed militias, and some wound up being adopted by other Sudanese families.

A peace agreement with the north was signed in 2005, but enforcement is said to have been spotty, and few humanitarian costs of the long war have been addressed. Ultimately, the war robbed south Sudan of a generation of its youth and destroyed its infrastructure and schools. The Lost Boys group led by Mr. Anei is hoping to raise money throughout the U.S. to rebuild schools there.

But that's been challenging due to all the attention on Darfur. "There's almost a shelf life on certain issues and their ability to carry on beyond the public's attention," said Wendi Dwyer, co-chairman of the group. "The branding and creative energy [from the agency relationship] will be a tremendous help."

Compatriots
She noted that many Darfurians are relocating to the south as they flee the war in their region, so the group may be able to leverage that conflict to help its own cause.

While this is the first known branding effort for the Lost Boys, they have received fairly recent publicity boosts from books and documentary films. A 2006 film about the Lost Boys, "The Gods Grew Tired of Us," won multiple prizes at the Sundance Film Festival that year. And bestselling author Dave Eggers' historical-fiction work "What Is the What" drew wide praise for its composite portrayal of the life of Valentino Achak Deng, another Lost Boy who wound up in the U.S.

Euro creative chief Blake Ebel, who is leading the agency's efforts for the Lost Boys, said Mr. Eggers and Mr. Deng will appear at a fundraiser for the organization at the agency later this year.

In 2002, the U.S. government accused Sudan of genocide, noting that 2 million people were killed in the south during the 22-year civil war there.

Most estimates on the current Darfur crisis say that more than 250,000 people have been killed since 2003, and perhaps as many as 400,000. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced.
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