Baithok Thiongkol, Rachel Ward, Matur Thiongkol and Joe and Matilda Brown in Sydney recently.
Baithok Thiongkol, Rachel Ward, Matur Thiongkol and Joe and Matilda Brown in Sydney recently.

Matur dreams big against all odds

With his future dream of becoming a star basketball player, 20-year-old Matur Thiongkol was announced the winner of the Against All Odds category at the Kids in Community (KIC) Awards 2009.

Matur said he was surprised and grateful to be nominated for the Against All Odds award, which recognises a young person who has triumphed over considerable personal challenges, inspiring others with their optimism, strength and courage.

For 14 years Matur lived in third-world conditions in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing his home country of Sudan when it descended into civil war.

Three and a half years ago he and his younger brother Baitok came to Australia as refugees and since arriving in Lismore, Matur has completed his HSC and is now working as a lifeguard at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre. He loves family and now takes on the role of an older brother mentoring other refugees.

“I’m a youth leader and I help people practise sports like netball and soccer,” he said. “Any kid who wants to play can talk to their parents and then join in.”

While he was living in Kenya, Matur was a star basketball player and won a scholarship to Nairobi City High School. He now dreams of playing NBL basketball and recently made a trip to Hawaii to try out for a college basketball team.

“They told me to come back and try again next year, so I’m going to keep training and trying,” Matur said.

“I want to help families and kids achieve their dreams too; I plan to start training kids to play basketball next year at the Goonellabah Aquatic Centre.”

Matur intends to do everything he can to achieve his dreams and goals not only for his own success but to inspire other young people to take hold of whatever opportunities come their way. He sees any personal triumph as a way to acknowledge and thank those who have helped him on his journey.

Until the KIC awards night, Matur didn’t know who KIC’s patron Rachel Ward was, but the 20-year-old was very excited about spending a weekend in Sydney with Rachel and her family as part of his prize. Rachel invited Matur and his brother Baitok to accompany her and her daughter and son, Matilda and Joe, to the gala ‘Bondi Black Tie Beach Party’, a fundraiser for YWCA NSW of which Rachel is also patron.

Both Matur and Baitok said the weekend with Rachel and her family was wonderful and they were full of praise for the work Rachel does with and for young people. As well as the gala event, the boys went rock climbing, attended a polo match, went on a shopping excursion with Rachel and enjoyed movies at an IMAX cinema.


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