Audio Recording of Interview
Born to Somali civil war refugees in a Kenyan refugee camp, Hamdi describes her upbringing in the camp before resettling with her familyin Buffalo, New York and later Syracuse, New York. She describes her family’s feelings of displacement and isolation, being bullied in school for struggling with English, and caring for her siblings. She also explains how alternative means of education enabled her personal growth and provided her a sense of community.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Hamdi Farah
Location: Syracuse, NY
Summary: Born to Somali civil war refugees in a Kenyan refugee camp, Hamdi describes her upbringing in the camp before resettling with her familyin Buffalo, New York and later Syracuse, New York. She describes her family’s feelings of displacement and isolation, being bullied in school for struggling with English, and caring for her siblings. She also explains how alternative means of education enabled her personal growth and provided her a sense of community.
Topics: Childhood, Culture, Education, Employment, Family, Future, Gender, Immigration Process, Language, Places of Worship, Resilience, War
Section 1: (00:22)
Childhood - While in Kenya, where she was born, Ms. Farah was one of nine kids. She was raised by her grandmother who was lenient with her.
Education - Ms. Farah had the opportunity to attend school in the refugee camp, but she was not interested in it.
Section 2: (01:48)
Family - In camp, Ms. Farah’s father and her uncle were the sole supporters of the family. She fondly recalls being showered with love.
Race - In camp, Ms. Farah rarely saw people that looked different from her.
Culture - Girls were not allowed to go to the camp’s movie theatre so that they could not mingle with the boys
Childhood - Contrary to external perceptions or imaginations of refugee camps, Ms. Farah remembers having a good childhood experience
Immigration Process - Ms. Farah was almost left behind in Kenya; her father persuaded her mother to take her with them.
Section 3: (07:11)
Immigration Process - Ms. Farah’s mother led the immigration application process.
Family - Ms. Farah’s mother had lived in the camp for nearly two decades after fleeing the Somali civil war.
Immigration Process - Since the camp where they had been living was secluded, as they moved out of Kenya, Ms. Farah saw for the first time people who looked different from her.
Cultural Adjustment - During the first few days that the family was in Buffalo, Ms. Farah’s mother felt so displaced that she wondered if they had made the right decision by immigrating to America.
Section 4: (15:03)
Resilience - The first house Ms. Farah and her family lived in had exposed lead; the second had bed bugs which the family had to tolerate for two years because of a contract they had signed.
Places of Worship - The family met and became good friends with a Somali man and his Pakistani wife through the mosque. Although there was a language barrier between the wife and Ms. Farah’s mother, the two were able to communicate, even signing sometimes.
Employment - When the family moved to Syracuse, Ms. Farah’s father stayed behind in Buffalo because he wanted to keep his first, hardly acquired job.
Language - At school, Ms. Farah was bullied for her lack of fluency in English. She also felt isolated as she could not communicate with others.
Family - Unlike in Kenya, Ms. Farah now had to take care of her siblings. Since she had been raised by her grandmother, living with the rest of her family was a new experience that was, unfortunately, stressful in the beginning.
Section 5: (23:01)
Cultural Adjustment - Through a friendship with a fellow Somali girl she met in her middle school, Ms. Farah was able to adjust better. She learned about the Northside Learning center where she polished her English skills and met other refugees with whom she was able to connect.
Education - Ms. Farah’s mother also attended the Northside Learning center. Ms. Farah recalls this as having particularly empowered her mother because it enabled her to communicate and find employment besides her responsibilities as a mother.
Section 6: (26:50)
Education - Ms. Farah still disliked school, but she could no longer skip it like she had under her grandmother’s care in Kenya. She explains that it was frustrating to learn everything in a language that she didn’t know.
Places of Worship - Ms. Farah volunteered at her mosque and at the Northside Learning Center. Once, she helped raise $40, 000 to buy a van for the center.
Education - Ms. Farah credits the Northside Learning Center for fostering her personal and professional growth. She also found motivation from younger students there when she herself was struggling academically.
Future - Ms. Farah aspires to become a teacher and this she believes was influenced by positive experiences as a student in the Northside Learning Center.
Section 6: (36:08)
Future - Ms. Farah’s American dream is to be able to financially support her family. Moreover, it extends beyond the American borders – she hopes to empower other girls, particularly those in the Kenyan camp where she was born and raised.
Gender - Ms. Farah believes that it is important for young girls like those in the Kenyan camp she called home for twelve years to have female role models who have ventured out of traditional roles such that they too can dream and aspire.