My name is Mohamed Abdulkadir , I came from Somalia. I came here 1994. The reason I came here was the civil war happening in my country. That civil war was so bad that we could not stay in our homes, so we fled to neighboring country Kenya. I was there for almost 3 years when I got the opportunity to come to the U.S.
It was strange. I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. There were people waiting for us at the airport, and they took us in a huge bus, we were about 21 people together. We just didn’t know what to expect. We had landed in Atlanta, Georgia, so we stayed in that area. Finding jobs, trying to adjust was difficult at the beginning. But at least we had some people who were helping us with the organization who brought us here, so that made our lives a little easier, but it was tough. You don’t have a car, no driver’s license, the jobs are far away from the area where we were living so you have to carpool. So sometimes we would have to wake up early in the morning to call people to try to find a ride. It was tough in the beginning.
The first obstacle when we arrived was the jobs that are so far away from the area, about 40 minutes drive. You can use the bus, but you’d have to prepare for a 3-hour ride for that. So the challenge was, “We have the job, how do we get there?” So to overcome that challenge, we came together as a pool of people, 3 of us, we decided we’ll put together money to buy the first one of us a car, then the second, then the third. We put together our money, and we managed to get a small down payment for the first car, second, then the third. We had to all work together. That’s how we survived in the beginning.
That’s a good one. The misconception is some people thinking that immigrants are taking U.S. jobs. And you know when you come here, you need to work to feed your family, you need a job. So if someone is thinking that you’re taking their job, it’s very tough to overcome that. And if you look at that misconception, you see that it’s not true. Because the jobs that immigrants typically get here are the lowest ones. Even if you’re a doctor back home, you can’t immediately be a doctor here, it’s difficult. You have to pass all the tests. But now you’re a doctor, but you need to feed your children, so how do you deal with that? Basically, you take any job you can find. I was a teacher back home. When I came here, I could teach math and chemistry, but I didn’t have any documents to prove that I graduated in Somalia as a teacher. Plus, it’s very difficult to get those jobs in the U.S. We are actually helping our communities because we are working hard and contributing to society. The other thing is Islamophobia which is huge in America. I couldn’t understand where that was coming from, because at home we don’t associate with extremist Islam. It’s kind of always there, those misconceptions about us. If you look at the facts, it’s different.
All of my work I’ve been trying to empower the youth. One of those things that I do is laying down the help that they need to succeed. If they need a job, find what obstacles they have. Do they need training? We can work for different organizations to provide trainings for youth. The other thing is the foundations to get an education. If younger kids will have a good education, then in the future they will be successful. Right now I’m working with that aspect. The reason a lot of kids struggle is education. So I thought maybe we should try starting with younger kids, to educate them so they understand how the system works. A lot of youth now are better than before, they’re learning, they understand the system, they can have a fair fight.
When I accomplish something that I’ve been working on for a long time, that’s my success. Finding solutions to problems gives me energy. I know there are so many things that need to be done, but I try my best to understand the problem and think until I solve it. Putting people together to find a solution. The need itself gives me energy. When I see a need, all I can think about is finding a solution, so that gives me the energy until I find the solution.
America is so special because sometimes you feel the playing field is level in a way. There’s always obstacles, but you can always have drive. America itself is confused. But there are different organizations that empower refugees like education, different support systems for immigrants, nowadays they are much better than before. They are more aware of what is happening in each community. I, myself, I put all of my energy into using education to empower refugees. That can change everything. But if that can’t happen, then small trainings will empower people to become better. All of my philosophy is around education for empowerment.
Be patient. Some of us may have an idea that once you arrive in America, you will make money right away, but this isn’t always true. So you have to be patient, you have to try to listen to other people who came before you so you don’t make small mistakes. Stay away from drugs or anything that hinders you easily, Try to go back to school and learn and learn and learn and you will succeed.