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His surroundings are so much different now. Lual Mayen sits in a modern office space, set in a trendy Washington, D.C., neighborhood that teems with beer gardens and Michelin Star restaurants. He enjoys the comfort of leather furniture and a fiber-optic infrastructure. Cold brew coffee comes on tap, and the water, once such a scare commodity, is citrus infused. The designer threads he wears can be traced to his homeland, but he wears them with an American swagger befitting of a CEO.

There was a time, though, when thoughts of success were trumped by those of survival. Mayen spent most of his young life doubting he would live to see the next day. He never had enough food. His friends were conscripted as child soldiers. Bombs regularly fell from the sky.

As a newborn in his parents’ arms, Mayen endured a 225-mile trek from his war-torn home in South Sudan to a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. His two older sisters died from illness while making the journey. Though he was too young to remember them, he still finds ways to honor their memory.

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