On November 14, Tut Khoryom Nyuon received Australia’s 2019 HESTA Aged Care Award for his commitment to caring for the elderly in the Tempelstowe Fronditha Aged Care Facility in Melbourne.
This would have been a somewhat ordinary event — if it wasn’t for Nyuon’s fascinating, and heart-wrenching, background.
The story of Greek-speaking, Sudanese-born Tut Khoryom Nyuon reads like a dramatic novel of tragedy and redemption. At the young age of fifteen he was forcibly taken away from his family to serve in the Sudanese Army as a child soldier. Had he resisted, they undoubtedly would have shot him on the spot.
While serving as an unwilling soldier in the Army he suffered torture, beatings and abuse of nearly every kind. Unwilling to train to kill human beings, Nyuon finally escaped to neighboring Ethiopia.
However, his successful escape came at a great cost, since the authorities searched for him and ended up arresting his father. After torturing him to try to make him tell them the location of his son, they killed him.
Tut, as he is lovingly called by the elderly Greek people he tends to, then asked the remaining members of his family to escape to Ethiopia if they could at all manage to do so. The family was somehow able to reunite, and they spent the next seven years living at a refugee camp.
It was there that Nyuon met his wife, and in 2003, he, his wife and his three brothers were allowed to migrate to Australia. In 2012, he received his official Certificate III in Aged Care after studying in that field.
After receiving his certificate, the former Sudanese child soldier began working part-time at the Templestowe Fronditha Aged Care facility in Melbourne, where he immediately became fast friends with the aging residents.
Once at Fronditha, he immediately discovered that most of the residents were actually Greek and spoke little English. Nuyon then decided to take it upon himself and learn the Greek language so that he could communicate better with the elderly Greek people he cared for.
That made Tut even more lovable to the residents, who had already come to care for him deeply, and he became a full-time staff member at the home. Always greeting residents with a cheerful “Yiasou,” he is now one of the favorites at the facility.
Nyuon enjoys the love and respect of the residents and their families because of his empathetic approach, which makes residents of the facility feel secure and cared for.
After all, how many care workers would even try to learn Greek – certainly not the easiest language in the world to learn – to communicate better and to cater to his patients’ needs?
Nyuon, who has suffered so much and experienced far more than he should have of all the bitterness that life could ever offer, has been totally and completely embraced by the Greek community of Melbourne.
People recognize him outside Fronditha and many greet him warmly on the streets or in shops and restaurants. After all, because of his exceptional caring and the love that he has shown its most vulnerable members, the Sudanese man is part of the Greek community now.