Celebrate South Sudan with this stunning photo essay created by Charlotter Chol Dhoor. All photos were taken on his December 2016 trip.

Chol Dhoor, 35, of Charlotte recently returned home from a trip to South Sudan to visit family and friends. After living in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, for 13 years, Dhoor made Vermont his new home where he has thrived for the past nine years. He’s a citizen, a University of Vermont graduate with a degree in economics, works at a local health center, is married and has a five-year-old son. His hometown of Bor welcomed him with open arms for a five-week stay over the holidays. He had not seen his parents in two decades.

(Photo 01) This is a shot of the meandering River Nile and tributaries around Bor. This was the best shot I could get from a window on a plane. Majestic work of nature, to say the least.

(Photo 02) From left to right: My cousin Ayuen Machola, Chol Mach (nephew), me, and Keer Machola (cousin) just hanging out during the day of my arrival in Kuoingo.

(Photo 03) This is a cow that was offered for festive and welcoming prayers during my visit in Kuoingo. This is a tradition that honors the grace and protection God has given to me during my long separation from the family. Although I met my dad in Juba, he insisted that the prayers be done in Kuoingo, where everyone who knew me as a child lives. “I want to bring you to them so they know what kind of man you have become and give thanks to God for protecting you in front of them,” he said.

MORE: Chol Dhoor and the Sudanese Foundation of Vermont

(Photo 04) Me, member of Parliament Buol Lual (center) and my longtime friend Thon Deng in Bortown. We met accidentally with Buol Lual. He was a famous teacher, former Kakuma Camp chairman and a fierce advocate for refugees’ education in the Kakuma refugee camp. He told me that it gave him a lot of joy and hope to see the young boys he helped educate return home and spent time with them. This is just wonderful, he said to me. He was invited and came to the United States a few years ago and spoke to former refugees in recognition of his work in the camp.

(Photo 05) I spoke to students at Lualdit Mixed Primary School in Kuoingo during the assembly to stress the importance of school as the only tool to uplift oneself and society for a common good. The school urgently needs renovation, especially the windows, doors and fence.

(Photo 06) Me, retired and legendary Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth (center) and most senior Rev. Samuel Majok Mathiang in Leu-Dieer, Bortown in Jonglei State. Bishop Nathaniel visited Vermont in 2006 where he was received by Bishop of Vermont Thomas Ely. Bishop Nathaniel explained he was grateful to the people of Vermont and to Bishop Thomas, who gave him the engraved and personalized chain with his name on it.

(Photo 07) Selfie with my mother, Yar Koryom Leek, in Kuoingo, Bor.

(Photo 08) My sister-in-law Ajok Akuot (with her son Riak), my cousin’s wife Yar Joh (in yellow), Mama Ayen Deng Arou (center), Yar Koryom (my mother, in pink) and Mama Achuei Lual at Madol Dhoor’s house in Kuoingo, Bor.

(Photo 09) This is my dad, former Chief, Dhoor Riak, at Juba International Airport. I was flying with him to Bor, my hometown, for welcoming prayers.

(Photo 10) This is my aunt Ayen Riak. She is the one who took care of me in the Kakuma refugee camp. So when I decided to visit my parents, I didn’t want to fly over her in Kenya to South Sudan. I wanted to visit her first in Kenya and then head to South Sudan. I spent nine days with her in Nairobi.

(Photo 11) A selfie with students at Lualdit Mixed Primary School.

If you would like to submit your own photo essay to appear in the Travel section of The Charlotte News please email your ideas to Lynn@TheCharlotteNews.org