Our case manager, Katia, went on a typical home visit to meet with a recently arrived Oromo refugee family. They had an interesting conversation as this couple reflected on their time so far in the United States and she was kind enough to share her reflections.
During a break in our home visit, I asked our intern Carolyn if she had any questions to ask Yonas. I explained that he would be a good candidate for any questions she may have about the situation of refugees or the Oromo people as his family’s relationship with our office has been exceptionally strong and the family has demonstrated a deep comfort with me as their caseworker and friend. Carolyn asked what the situation for Yonas was like in Nairobi, Kenya, where the family was before arriving in Minnesota.
“In Nairobi there are too many problems,” he explained. “The police follow you wherever you go. They ask for money and sometimes they put you in jail. Some nights they come knocking on the door and demand that you open. If you don’t, they break your window and they climb in. Sometimes they take your wife and you don’t know where they’ve taken her until you find her a week later in the hospital. Sometimes they rape your daughter while you’re in the same room. In Nairobi, there are too many problems and you cannot trust anyone to protect you. It is only God that protected us in that place. We have passed it now.”
Our job counselor Brittany commented that in America the problems are different things—like a wrong name on the work permit or a taxi that doesn’t pick you up for an appointment. “Yes,” Yonas agreed, “we call this a ‘problem’ too. It has the same name as the problems in Nairobi, but it is something else. This is a different world. In America, things are okay. They are simple for us. In Nairobi there are no jobs and we must make a job for ourselves to survive. In Minnesota, there are jobs, we just need to be ready to work. We are prepared to work hard to make our life here.”
On a question during our Cultural Orientation Assessment I asked them to name two services provided by MCC that help new families resettle in Minnesota. “There are many more than two things,” Helen stated. “There is a home for us to stay in, food, assistance with health, school… When we met you we were in a hole. You took us out and you made us human beings. You mixed us with the rest of the people.”
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