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Interview for

Hassina Adams


Interviewed By:

Amir Duric

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:01:20

A refugee from Uganda, Hassina and her three siblings first moved to Johannesburg, South Africa with their mother before resettling in Syracuse, NY, following their mother’s passing. Hassina recounts her experience grieving her mother, immigrating as an unaccompanied minor, and finding community in a foreign place.

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Additional Notes

Narrator: Hassina Adams

Date: 08/07/20

Location: Syracuse, NY

Summary:A refugee from Uganda, Hassina and her three siblings first moved to Johannesburg, South Africa with their mother before resettling in Syracuse, NY, following their mother’s passing.  Hassina recounts her experience grieving her mother, immigrating as an unaccompanied minor, and finding community in a foreign place.

Topics: Commentary on age, Cultural adjustment, Comfort, Community, Death, Education, Faith, Family, Grief, Immigration Process,  Language, Motivation, Places of Worship, Religious Practice, Resilience, Tradition


Section 1: (00:03)

  • Death - Ms. Adams’ father was executed by the Ugandan government in 1999 due to accusations of treason.

  • Immigration Process - Ms. Adams’ mother then moved the bereaved family to Johannesburg, South Africa where they remained for thirteen years.

  • Death - In addition to their father, Ms. Adams and her siblings lost their mother to tuberculosis shortly before they were accepted to resettle in Syracuse, New York.

Section 2: (02:21)

  • Grief - Whereas her siblings processed their mother’s death through tears, Ms. Adams recalls being in denial for a while. It was only until she had to occupy the guardianship role over her siblings that she began to realize the absence of her mother.

  • Motivation - Ms. Adams’ mother serves as an inspiration for her and her siblings as they pursue their dreams because she wanted the very best for them.

  • Immigration Process - Ms. Adams says that it was her mother’s dream to resettle abroad and thus it was bittersweet for her not to experience America with them

Section 3: (09:37)

  • Grief - Ms. Adams believes that a griever should find a good balance between coming to terms with the suffered loss and also moving on; otherwise, they may develop depression. Although she misses her mother, she keeps in mind her lessons and tries to live everyday to the fullest.

Section 4: (13:30)

  • Faith - After Ms. Adams’ mother died, her resettlement application would have been restarted, but a caseworker who had worked with her at a certain CSVR program in South Africa reached out to the UNHCR to request for the family’s case status to be maintained. It was granted; moreover, the UNHCR even visited Ms. Adams and her siblings. All these positive events Ms. Adams considered God’s benevolent intervention.

  • Immigration Process - Although applying for immigration to the US was tediously methodical and exhausting for Ms. Adams and her siblings, they had a relatively smooth process because they were familiar with it as their mother had been trying for over a decade. They were processed as “unaccompanied minors.”

  • Education - During their interview with an American immigration office, Ms. Adams cited education as a means through which she and her siblings would contribute meaningfully to the American society once they were approved for resettlement.

Section 5: (19:19)

  • Immigration Process - Upon their arrival at the airport in Syracuse, Ms. Adams and her family were welcomed by a caseworker from Catholic Charities. She recalls having felt supported every step of the way.

  • Language - Ms. Adams acknowledges that she and her siblings’ being English speakers made their immigration process much easier and smoother.

  • Education - Because they arrived nearer summertime in Syracuse, Ms. Adams and her siblings were not able to attend school immediately. So they took some preparatory classes with Catholic Charities.

  • Commentary on age - For a while after they arrived in Syracuse, Ms. Adams and her siblings felt extremely isolated because they did not know anyone. They were young orphans, which made the process all the more daunting.

  • Community - Responding to their needs, Ms. Adams’ caseworker drove her and her siblings around the city in search for not only a mosque but one where the siblings would feel welcomed and comfortable. Once they found one, they were able to form a good relationship with one of its administrators who went on to be a kind of “mentor.”

Section 6: (28:19)

  • Community - The Masjid administrator that Ms. Adams and her siblings meant during their tour of mosques remained an important mentor of theirs; he encouraged Ms. Adams to retake the GED after she had failed the math portion and she passed the second time around!

  • Faith - Because there were so many people helping her family along the way, Ms. Adams feels like her faith in God grew stronger as a result.

Section 7: (31:19)

  • Immigration Process - Catholic Charities provided all the basic necessities for Ms. Adams and her siblings upon their arrival in Syracuse.

  • Cultural Adjustment - According to Ms. Adams, it is crucial for those resettling to feel a sense of belonging, which can often be achieved when they have people they relate to such as those of a similar religious background. Therefore, it should be a priority for resettlement agencies to take into account what kind of community refugees are looking for once they resettle.

  • Community - For Ms. Adams, community means a reflection of her personal values and also her identity. Hence why she was able to feel welcomed as a Muslim woman in the mosque.

  • Faith - Ms. Adams’ mother was very religious so she influenced her a lot. Ms. Adams also emphasizes the importance of community in strengthening faith.

Section 8: (48:50)

  • Places of Worship - Ms. Adams and her siblings went to the mosque daily as they were adjusting to life in Syracuse because they had found community, which they had been yearning for. The Masjid administrator they meant during their tour even offered them an apartment for rent that was closer to the mosque than the one they had been given by Catholic Charities; they accepted it.

  • Immigration Process - Ms. Adams and her siblings do not rely on Catholic Charities as much as they did initially so as to become more independent.

  • Education - Ms. Adams teaches at the Northside Learning Center, which helps numerous refugees acclimate by helping them with, for example, building their English skills

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