Mohamed Kabiro’s Story
Once a successful fisherman catching over 600 pounds of fish a day in the coastal city of Baraawe, Somalia, Mohamed Kabiro never imagined how greatly his world would change in the upcoming years.
In 1991 a union of armed clan groups brought the long-standing military government of Mohamed’s home country down. After the fall of the military dictatorship in Somalia, different groups began competing for power and soon after a civil war broke out.
During the war he was separated from his family. Alone and fearing for his safety, Mohamed got on his fishing boat and fled to the city of Mombasa in the neighboring country of Kenya. He received warm greetings in Kenya and relocated to Barawan Refugee camp. The camp was well funded by international organizations and food was plentiful, Mohamed felt welcomed. He knew that when it came to his fate—he had been luckier than many others from his village. After seven years, Mohamed was surprised to learn he was being relocated due to the closing of Barawan Refugee Camp.
He was moved almost 1,000 miles away to Kakuma Refugee camp, a camp where conditions were considerably worse. Mohamed remembers his time at Kakuma as very difficult. Donor support was scarce because of the many conflicts going on all around the world. When asked about his daily struggle in Kakuma he replied, “There were shortages of food, and water was very scarce.” Kakuma refugee camp also struggles with the spread of communicable diseases and malaria. During his 12-year stay Mohamed spent his time as a sanitation worker, trying to help keep the camp safe and clean.
During the summer of 2012 he received news that he had been approved for resettlement in the United States. Although he felt nervous about moving to an unknown place alone, Mohamed was yearning for a fresh start. He arrived in Chicago on July 10, 2012. Having spent the majority of his life in refugee camps he cannot even begin to express how grateful he is to be here.
Within two months Mohamed secured a job. He thanks RefugeeOne for helping him to get settled and providing him with the tools to start his journey off on the right foot. Mohamed feels very lucky to be in this country. With that luck he feels, comes a responsibility to help the people in his country who were not as fortunate as he was. Mohamed’s dream is to give back to Somalia. He hopes to work hard and save enough money, to send back relatives, who are still suffering in the refugee camps. Mohamed is so thankful for all the help he has received during an uncertain time of transition. After 20 long years, Mohamed turns the page to a new chapter in his life, ready and excited for the future.
Your support of this project helps us to continue serving refugees like Mohamed who are resettled in the Chicagoaland area.
Through RefugeeOne’s Youth Program, refugee youth are provided with the resources they need to successfully transition into their new surroundings. Our dedicated staff serve as liaisons between refugee families and schools, helping families to understand school policies, accompanying them to registration and the first day of school, acting as emergency contacts, and providing parenting workshops to address topics that affect children’s academic performance. They arrange separate report card pickup times for refugee families and accompany families to the school with interpreters to ensure that parents understand their child’s academic progress.
During the school year, the Youth Program offers an after-school program that allows students to receive one-on-one homework help and ESL tutoring from staff and volunteers; participate in team-building and conflict resolution games; and enjoy extra-curricular activities such as art, music, and athletics. The after-school program also includes occasional field trips to local cultural institutions.
In the summer months, ESL activities, art, music, and athletics are offered through a six-week summer camp, allowing our youth to experience subject areas that are not always available to them in their schools.
Throughout the year, the Youth Program also hosts several special events, one of which is a Back-to-School Party in August where youth and their families are invited to celebrate the beginning of a new school year. All youth receive new backpacks and school supplies donated by varying individuals, congregations, and organizations. We are currently collecting school supplies and backpacks for our Back-To-School Backpack Drive until August 5.
With a small donation, you can provide a refugee youth with the tools needed to navigate through school successfully. For more information on our youth program click here. To learn more about our Back-To-School Backpack Drive, click here.
We at RefugeeOne are asking you to DO ONE THING in honor of the globally celebrated World Refugee Day. World Refugee Day was instituted in 2001 by UNHCR to raise awareness to the plight of millions of refugees worldwide who were forced to flee their homes. Though the official day is June 20, the occasion is marked throughout the week and often during the entire month of June.
Starting a new life in an unfamiliar environment can be daunting. For families who escape the perilous conditions in their native countries, establishing a new home is the first step toward achieving normalcy. RefugeeOne’s DO ONE THING campaign seeks to provide refugee families resettled by our agency with fundamental household items for their first American home. Doing so will help empower these families so that they may begin to lead new lives of dignity and self-sufficiency. With your gift, you will help us reach our World Refugee Day goal of raising $25,000 to help welcome 10 refugee families to the U.S.
Imagine. By donating $20, you can provide a family of four with a set of dishes or silverware. By donating $75, warm blankets and pillows can be purchased for a family of four to get them through a Chicago winter.
Become a part of our campaign. Make a difference, spread the word, and DO ONE THING.
Click here for more information on our DO ONE THING campaign.
Thang Tung Pau arrived at O’Hare on July 5, 2011. In Burma, he worked on his family’s farm until he was targeted for forced labor and torture for not joining the military. Fortunately, he escaped the country and found temporary safety in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Pau, even in Burma, shared many of the ideals that we Americans hold so dear: self-reliance, courage, and determination to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. Restricted to the camp, he taught himself English in order to get a jump start should he be resettled in an English-speaking country.
By last November – just four short months after stepping off the plane – Pau was working as a janitor at a gym in the Gold Coast. He is also active in the Burmese community and volunteers to help translate for newly arriving Burmese refugees. He also began a 3-month/240-hour program at Progressive Truck Driving School. After completing the course, Pau will take the commercial drivers license test, and enroll in Progressive’s job placement service.
When asked why he wanted to drive a truck, Pau simply replied, “I like to drive”. He drove a dump truck for the jade mine so he is used to handling large vehicles. He added, “Since I arrived in the United States, in my mind, I’ve been thinking about my future. For me, the only way to earn more money is to be a truck driver. My English is not good and I don’t have [an American] education.”
He then remembered his wife and daughter, still in Burma. He wants to make more money so he will have a nice home when they arrive. Pau’s wife works the family farm and, although she has been questioned about his whereabouts, remains safe. He hopes they will join him by the end of the year.
Pau is living RefugeeOne’s mission to “create opportunities to build new lives of safety, dignity and self-reliance.” At the same time, he is also breathing new life into the American Dream.
Help Pau, and other refugees like him, reach their American Dream with your donation.
The Story of Htoo Eh and Her Family
In the years before her life was uprooted by Burma’s military junta, Htoo Eh was a primary grade school teacher in Tay Dey, a village in southern Burma. She and her husband Kle-Klo Say had been married four years and had had two children before deciding their village was no longer safe, due to constant bombardment from the Burmese Army. Though the family was frightened, they were prepared for the arrival of the brutal military regime; inside their home was an emergency kit stocked with clothing and a few pounds of rice, ready for when the family had to flee at a moment’s notice.
The family traveled for one month through the jungle, resting on the ground of the dense forest. However, at each place they took respite, they would again encounter the Army and were forced to run off. Soon the family reached an area of the forest known as Ee Hto Hta. There, Htoo Eh and Kle-Klo Say created a makeshift home from bamboo. They stayed in their new “home,” for three months then decided the only way to remain safe was to go to a refugee camp in Thailand. However, by then, the Thai government had closed the Thai-Burma border where the camps were located so access to the camps was stopped. Their only choice then, was to sneak in.
It was an extremely risky move; risky because the Burmese border was only 2.5 miles from the camp. However, the family arrived at the Mae La Oon refugee camp in northern Thailand in 2006 after successfully traversing the carefully guarded Thai border. Though there were wooden houses set up in the camp, they were incredibly overcrowded, offering no privacy for the small family. So, like before, they constructed a bamboo hut for shelter. It was in the camp, in 2007, that their second daughter – Eh Htee Say – was born.
The conditions of the camp were hardly sanitary, consequently, every few weeks the children got sick. A year after their youngest daughter was born, the family experienced another hardship. Htoo’s husband, Kle Klo Say became sick and never recovered. In 2008, after seven years of marriage and three children, he passed away leaving the family fatherless.
Throughout the ordeal, Htoo Eh maintains that she was, of all things, lucky. Lucky to have arrived at the Mae La Oon camp when she did, for her family was among the very last group able to register for resettlement with UNHCR since 2006; thus their 5-year process of coming to the United States began.
Htoo Eh arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on November 3, 2011 with her three children – Soe K’ Paw Shee (9), Shee Say (7), and Htee Say (4) – and younger brother, Day Htoo (18). She is grateful for the chance she has been given. Here, her children have not been sick and are attending school. She says their apartment is warm and there are more than enough clothes for her and her family.
Her Baptist roots bring her to church every week, helping her to handle the challenges she faces in Chicago. She wholeheartedly appreciates the churches that helped co-sponsor her family. She is humbled by their collaborative efforts to furnish and set up the apartment before the family’s arrival. Their generosity has helped the family begin to live their new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance in the U.S.
She dreams of the day when her mother and sister, who are still in the Thailand camp, will join her in Chicago. She is eager to learn English so she can get her high school diploma. Although she is currently searching for any type of job, she hopes to one day return to her teaching roots.
And on her left hand, with painted nails, she still wears the wedding ring that was given to her a decade ago.
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