Felix Lohitai has gone through hell and back to establish his life in the United States.

The Sudanese transplant first came to the U.S. in 2004, settling in Erie four years later.

Before then, he spent 14 years in a refugee camp, as he was forced from his home in South Sudan during a still ongoing civil war which has torn the country apart.

With nowhere else to go, Lohitai came to the U.S. with a goal of achieving the American dream.

And so far, so good.

As he became a U.S. citizen, earned a master's degree at Gannon University, and a job at Harborcreek youth services.

He felt comfortable sharing his story in the documentary because he believes refugees get a bad rep from policy-makers, who say refugees do not pay taxes and try to steal jobs.

And although Sudan was not listed as a country on President Trump’s travel ban, Lohitai says every refugee deserves a chance to work themselves from the ground up, much like he has done.

"It's only possible in the country like the United States.” Lohitai said “This is a great country that we all have to uphold and be proud of, and indeed I’m proud of."

 And as for his kids, he's sent one to college, and another is serving in the United States Armed Forces.


"Rust Belt New American" is part of a collaborative effort from MenajErie Studios and former Erie Reader Photojournalist, Maitham Basha-Agha.

Producers say they plan to expand the project into a miniseries. And you can keep up with their progress by visiting their Facebook