Like many 20-year-old girls concerned with appearance, Sara AbdiMohamed carefully chooses her colorful Somali attire to wear toclass. Yet, she does not go to class at UTSA or at any other school in town. Instead, she attends classes about western life at a refugee center.
In the heart of the San Antonio Medical Center, just one blockfrom the popular Chacho’s restaurant, apartments at the NobHill complex function as a refugee center. Catholic Charities isthe agency in charge of helping Sara, her family and many otherBantu families relocate to America from Africa.
Sara’s family left their country a long time ago in questfor a new life.
“I was very young; I was five years old when we leftSomalia,” Sara explained through her translator, Dadiri Jama.She learned her history through her older sister, because Sara wastoo young to remember.
“My mom was killed by Somali people,” Sara said.
The Bantus, an ethnic group relegated to slavery, werepersecuted, robbed and slaughtered during Somalia’s civil warin the early 1990s. The terrible situation forced many like Sara toescape via the border to Kenya. This was her only chance forsurvival.
Sara remembers growing up in a Kenya refugee camp. The manyyears she spent there are impossible to forget. She met her husbandat the camp, a fellow Bantu who lived under the same unfortunateconditions.
Rene Odhiambo, in charge of training at the center, explainedthat when refugees arrive in the camp, they start a very longprocess. First, they must apply for official refugee status withthe United Nations. Once the status is granted, the refugees aresent to one of the countries currently open to refugees. Amongthese are the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
Despite their struggles, the life of the refugee is all about hope: the hope that there is something better waiting for them, aswell as the hope that they will be able to cope with, if notforget, their tragic past. Fortunately, hope has repaid many of therefugees with a new life.