Lual Mayen, 24, was born in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda and for 22 years of his life that is all he could remember. As all refugee stories go, life in a camp was far from ideal as his family tried to make ends meet in a time of scarcity while keeping out of the cross fires as they avoided enemy raids and bomb blasts from South Sudan known as ‘antelopes.’
At that time if someone had told Mayen that one day he would be the first East African to head a gaming company in the United States of America he would have laughed in their face, immediately dismissing such a thought.
With time, conditions in the camp became unbearable and limited him from the outside world due to various restrictions such as poverty and illiteracy. Nonetheless this did not stop Mayen from dreaming of a bigger and better life; not only did he teach himself English but also how to use a computer. In fact the first time he set his eyes upon a laptop in the refugee camp he was only 12, with the faith and innocence of a child he asked his struggling mother for one.
Although she initially laughed at his request, like all mothers, she sacrificed what she could, worked tirelessly until she could buy one at US$300. Mayen cried when he received it, little did he know that this laptop would set him on a path that would deliver not only him, but the rest of his family as well.
“I never knew he was going to be who he was today,” said Nyantet Daruka, his mother. “I was just being a mom to him. I was just working hard for him. Because life changes. Life changes sometimes.”
Fast forward and this former refugee now sits in a plush office in the heart of Washington DC, a CEO of his very own company, Junub Games. Although he designed his first game whilst still a refugee, Mayen has gone on to develop his brain child called ‘Salam’ which means peace in Kiswahili and is a video game that aims at creating awareness around peace keeping missions and the various impacts they have around the world.
This has managed to get him a lot of attention as the game was voted ‘The most social impacting game’ of the year. Besides making guest appearances around the world, Mayen was also invited to the United States on G passport as one of the World Bank’s advisers.
“That’s the thing in life, If you’re going through something hard and you survive, the next thing is, how do you come out of that? How do you utilize that opportunity to make your life better?” says Mayen as he reminisces the struggles he had to endure with his family.
With a new chapter in his life and his parents safely only their way to Canada, Mayen can finally put all that suffering behind him and focus on a new life with the finer things in life, beginning with the launch of his company through key partnerships and sponsorships including South Sudanese NBA player Luol Deng.