El-Fadel Arbab, 28
Lecturer and Secretary
Darfur Community Center of Maine
El-Fadel Arbab’s life ambition is to travel to all 50 states, stopping in as many towns as possible to talk about the horrors of the Darfur genocide in a way so personal that it can’t help but capture the hearts and minds of the American people. El-Fadel has known more than his share of hardship and hard work in his 28 years. He was 12 years old when the Janjaweed, militias backed by the Sudan government, began terrorizing villages like his, killing indiscriminately to discourage popular revolutions.
“I dedicate myself, the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter how long it will take,” El-Fadel said of his work as designated lecturer and secretary of the Fur Cultural Revival, part of the Darfur Refugee Community Center of Maine.
El-Fadel was nearly burned alive before escaping Sudan by journeying on foot to Egypt, where he became a child slave before his eventual resettlement in Portland in 2004. In his early 20s, while attending adult ed classes to learn English, he held two jobs, working 17 hours a day, to help support his mother and brothers in Africa and around the world.
In his current position, El- Fadel has spoken to hundreds of audiences at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, community centers, churches, synagogues and other locations. Students who have heard his story have raised more than $50,000 for organizations providing direct aid to Darfur genocide survivors and other victims.
El-Fadel has gained a national reputation as an eloquent spokesman for oppressed and terrorized peoples. He credits Maine people and institutions – “volunteers, friends, the media, the community of leaders” – for much of his success.
“I’m very lucky and proud to be in Maine,” he said, adding that Portland will remain his home, no matter where his journey for justice takes him.