My name is Abdi Adan. I was born in a city call Kismayo. This city is located in the southern part of Somalia. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Somalia. It has a long coast and a beautiful river. My life was very comfortable, living with my family. I don’t mean we were very rich people from upper classes. We were middle class.
I was preparing myself to start university when the Somali civil war started in 1991. Somali function leaders (war lords) captured the Capital city (Muqdishu) of Somalia. Somali’s central government collapsed. The country became lawless. The war lords failed to choose or elect a new president. These war lords agreed to overthrow the government, but they never thought of the consequences. They did not agree with sharing power, then another war was started. The war spread out all over the country. Thousands of innocent people were killed and about two million people were displaced. Major clans started to target minor clans who were not armed. People started to hide their identities- otherwise they would get killed because of who they were or if they belonged to a certain tribe.
My family decided to flee to our neighbor Kenya. We did not have any other choice. We left everything behind and went to Kenya on foot. The distance between Kenya border and our hometown Kismayo is about 250 kilometers [155 miles]. It was a long way to go. It took us about 9 to 10 days to reach the border. On the way to Kenya we faced a lot of risks. There were many road blocks.
Everywhere there were local militia men with guns. They held us at gunpoint a couple of times asking us who we were and which tribe we belonged to. Our mother wisely answered those tough questions.
They tried to kill us. They looted our stuff such as the little food and money we carried on us. Many people became sick especially young children. Some children did not survive and they died on the road. Imagine no one even stopped to bury them. In some incidents, we were tortured and women were raped. We ran out of food. There was no clean water to drink. It was the rainy season and we had no other option but to drink contaminated water from the ground.
Finally, we reached Kenyan border. Thank God, we made it. On the border we met many international human train organizations such UNHRC (United Nation Higher Commissioner.) WFP, (World Food Program.) and so on. We were registered as refugees and started new lives. Later, we were located to a new refugee camp called Dagahely refugee camp. We lived at this refugee camps from 1991 until 2009. I met my wife in this refugee camp and became married in 2001. Four of my children were in this refugee camp. In the refugee camp, life was not easy. We lived in an open jail because were not allowed to travel within Kenya. To travel within Kenya, you had to have a Kenyan Identification Card. Even refugees’ children who were born in the refugee camps in 1991 and grew up in refugee camps did not have the right to get Kenyan ID.
In 2009, we got a chance to move to United States through the refugee resettlement program. We started a new comfortable life with full of promising opportunities. Our dreams came true. We are not living in an open jail in the refugee camps anymore. My children are enjoying free public schools with well trained professional teachers. I have also got a chance to go back to school and now am working on my associates degree in college. I am very proud to say I became a US Citizen in 2015 and voted this year for my first time.
I am member of a Somali community who live here in Greeley, CO. We are small community growing very slowly and adjusting this new lifestyle. I am a Somali Case Manager at Lutheran Family Services Refugees and Asylee Program. I have been working with refugees since 2011. My agency is a non-profit local resettlement agency. We resettle refugees and help them to become self-sufficient. As a community of immigrants we help each other and spend time together when we have free time. Also, we get to gather at mosque for Friday prayers. I share with this community many things such as values, religion, language, and culture.
Frankly speaking I do not know how other people view me but I think they have a respect for me. I am simple person and who is always willing to respect others regardless of race, sex, age, color, and religion.
I had been living about 19 years in refugee camps and worked with different people. for example, I was a primary school teacher in the refugee camps and worked closely with parents and students. All of these experience including the hard life in refugee camps, helped me to understand and work people with different backgrounds including new immigrants live in this country.
Abdi Adan lived in refugee camp about 19 years. resettled United State as refugee in 2009. Has primary school teaching experience over 16 year. Working since 2011 at Lutheran Family Services Refugees and Asylee Program as Case Manager. Studying Sociology at Aims Community College. further of eight children. in his free time likes to hang around with his family and friends. loves reading books and and likes to watches soccer games of the English premier league.
[This essay has been edited for clarity]