The brainchild of Ohio State grads Jok Dau and Bol Aweng, two of the Lost Boys of Sudan, has become a sanctuary in a troubled land.

The brainchild of Ohio State grads Jok Dau and Bol Aweng, two of the Lost Boys of Sudan, has become a sanctuary in a troubled land.

Jok Dau sits in darknessbefore his computer inside his home in Juba, South Sudan's capital. It's a Tuesday evening in mid-November. "I've been fine," he begins, the outline of his face and smile barely visible via Skype, lit only by a torch inside his home. "But the country is getting worse as time goes by." For almost two years, conflict has ravaged Dau's country. More than 10,000 have died. NGOs have left the capital, including the one that employed Dau when he returned to his homeland in 2011. South Sudan-the world's newest nation, formed in 2011-has been called a failed state.

Our call cuts off after two minutes. We try twice more with a video chat on Facebook, then audio only. "The network here is very, very poor," is all Dau manages to say before he fades away again. Eventually, we give up, and I send questions via email. Dau explains he does have a safe place to run to and hide when there is fighting but writes of the stress endured by everyone he knows: "So many people in South Sudan and myself are not pleased about this useless and meaningless fighting."

Dau never wanted to see violence and war again. Along with his cousin Bol Aweng, he was one of the thousands of so-called Lost Boys of Sudan who fled the country in the 1980s amid a brutal civil war. In 1987, the pair left their small Christian village, Piol, and began a journey together that would span four countries, two continents and thousands of miles, including four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. The journey-the subject of an August 2009 cover story inColumbus Monthly-eventually led to Central Ohio, where both men earned undergraduate degrees at Ohio State University: Dau, a bachelor's of art in international relations and diplomacy, and economic and social development; Aweng, a degree in fine arts.

The two men never forgot about their village, though, and returned in 2007, reuniting with family but seeing for the first time the limited health services for children and mothers. They returned to Ohio and paired with members of the Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church to share their vision to build a health clinic. Upon returning to South Sudan, they presented their idea, as well as a buckeye necklace, to the village chief, Aweng Deng, explaining the luck associated with the nut by people in Central Ohio. If you build us a clinic, the village chief promised, we will call it the Buckeye Clinic.

A fundraising goal of $300,000 was set. Thousands of dollars poured in-almost all from people in the Columbus area. Vaccinations began in 2011, and by June 2012, the Buckeye Clinic was built, powered by solar energy. By 2013, a professional staff, a midwife and a laboratory technician were hired. But fighting began again in Sudan-and by 2014, threatened the villagers of Piol, who fled to the swampy areas nearby for safety.

The clinic remained open, but there were no medicines, and when villagers finally returned, it was too late to plant crops. Instead, the clinic distributed food-more than 26,000 pounds of sorghum, beans, rice, cooking oil, salt and sugar. A fence was built around the clinic, creating a zone of security the size of two football fields. A large community garden was planted, and a solar-powered mobile phone charging station was installed in an area where no electricity was available within 30 miles. More food was distributed-another 70,635 pounds. In all, more than $429,000 has been raised, with $121,000 contributed through service-learning projects at 28 local elementary, middle and high schools, including Upper Arlington High School ($56,000), Bexley Middle School ($28,000) and Hastings Middle School in Upper Arlington ($7,000).

From Juba, Dau does what he can to help with the clinic as fighting continues, but the roads are blocked. Aweng, meanwhile, remains in Columbus. He is married now, with four children, and works at Wal-Mart. Recently, he received a citizenship award from the OSU Alumni Association. In his acceptance speech, he told the gathered audience: "My village was a place where people had no hope for tomorrow because everything they had was destroyed by war. In South Sudan one child out of five did not live to age 5, and mothers were giving birth in an unhealthy environment. The unconditional support of the Buckeye Clinic has changed their lives."