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Finding new life at Lowe’s

One of Yai Lyai’s favorite things about working at Lowe’s in Northglenn, Colo., is being able to help people.

Lyai began working at the store two years ago, but the story of his journey prior to coming to Lowe’s is one he’ll never forget.

Lyai is originally from Sudan – now known as South Sudan – and was just six or seven years old when he was separated from his family by a civil war in 1987.  He and hundreds of other children trekked thousands of miles across the desert on bare feet, trying to reach safety. The journey of finding food and water wherever they could, was often difficult.

“I had to eat mud just to wet and soften my throat because there was no water,” Lyai explained “I survived on wild fruits, vegetables and leaves. Life was a day-to-day struggle and I kept thinking that today would be my last day because I had seen so many of my friends die.”

After leaving Sudan, he arrived in Ethiopia, only to be forced back to his war-torn homeland in 1991. From there, he escaped to Kenya, where he learned English. In 2001, he came over to the United States through a refugee resettlement program. That’s when he and others like him became known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”

Lyai settled down with his wife in the Denver, Colo., area, where they’re raising their eight children.

In 2015, Lyai applied for a job at the Lowe’s store in Northglenn. Store Manager Matt Knott hired him initially as a temporary employee, but immediately saw his potential.   He’s since been hired on full-time and just recently received a promotion. It’s his dedication and commitment to helping others that makes Lyai stand out. “He pitches in, whether it’s ringing the register or helping in lumber,” Knox said.  “He’s all over the store, bringing that smile.”

For almost a year, Lyai’s co-workers didn’t know about his past. But now, Knott says most of the employees are inspired after hearing about it. Lyai now wants more people to learn about his past struggles and is sharing his story to raise awareness about the need for help in South Sudan.