Audio Recording of Interview
A Muslim immigrant from Kenya, Ifrah discusses her experiences living in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda, and being separated from her family upon obtaining asylum. She describes relocating to Kansas, restarting her higher education, becoming an interpreter aiding other refugees in the area, and pursuing her passion for social justice.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Ifrah Ahmed
Location: Garden State, Kansas (Virtual)
Summary: A Muslim immigrant from Kenya, Ifrah discusses her experiences living in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda, and being separated from her family upon obtaining asylum. She describes relocating to Kansas, restarting her higher education, becoming an interpreter aiding other refugees in the area, and pursuing her passion for social justice.
Topics: Race, Discrimination, Family, Language, Employment, Personal Finances, Cultural Adjustment, Education, Childhood, Future, Pandemic, Immigration Process, Religious Practice
Section 1: 00:00—9:31
Childhood: loved her childhood in Kenya, playing outside with children and inventing toys to play
Family: neighborhood felt like family; immediate family later split by the resettlement process
Employment: found work for the U.N. in Uganda, working as an interpreter in circa 2005. Studied anthropology at a university but didn’t have the financial resources to pursue a PhD so she became an interpreter.
Immigration Process: 2012-she and her sisters received acceptance for resettlement, but her mother did not. Sisters sent to different countries in Europe. Health screenings, interviews, and vetting process to be accepted for resettlement while in a refugee camp.
Cultural Adjustment: knew nothing about Kansas and asking immigration officers around her; was told about Dorothy, tornados and barbeque but had no idea what those cultural staples meant. Described not having proper winter clothes, never seen trees without leaves before.
Language: described living in a house with seven refugee women who all spoke different languages, noted it as a positive, interesting experience.
Section 2: 9:31—18:01
Race: in Kenya, was perceived as Somalian because of her parents. Didn’t identify with Somalia because she had never been there or knew much about it. Felt like she didn’t belong anywhere. Noted that most of her social set was refugees, so this was normal.
Education: homeschooled by her mother, attended Catholic primary school in Kenya, moved to Uganda in high school and attended university there. Felt independent in university.
Family: the break-up of her immediate family was heartbreaking and the cause of homesickness and isolation felt upon moving to Kansas. Noted that most refugees are kept together with their family, her situation unique.
Cultural Adjustment: cultural shock, emotional difficulty moving to a place where she didn’t know anyone. Reminded herself that she had more opportunities in America, described herself as working towards the American dream.
Employment: described how employment opportunities were slim in Kenya/Uganda regardless of education, that one got jobs due to connections, not merit or experience.
Religious Practice: describes organization to religious communities and practices in refugee camps, refugee camps were majority Muslim
Cultural Adjustment: attended Catholic schools and learned about Catholicism but when home and learned from her mother about Islam. Cites her Catholic education schools with helping her to assimilate in Kansas and relate to her Christian friends in America. As an anthropology student, she also studied Hinduism.
Section 3: 18:01—28:06
Religious Practice: described religious leadership in the refugee camps for Muslims. Imams, sheikhs, adhans, mosques present, community for prayer five times a day. Formal study of the Qu’ran. All the food was halal, celebrations for Ramadhan and Eid. Fasting. Strong Islamic culture and community.
Language: described being put in an ESL class in Kansas despite already knowing English. None of her degrees obtained in Africa counted so she took the GED and attended a community college.
Immigration Process: Her GED enrollment was organized by the same organization that helped her resettle, Jewish Immigrational Service which then hired her as an interpreter.
Employment: worked as an interpreter for the Jewish Immigrational Service while obtaining educational degrees through night classes. Got hired right away in Garden State, Kansas; worked by assisting refugees’ journey in assimilating and adjusting to life in her local community.
Family: had some difficulties with obtaining a working cell-phone but once she did, she was able to contact her mother and her sisters. Felt isolated so she moved to stay with a cousin in Garden City, in Western Kansas.
Religious Practice: notes that practicing her religion in America was not difficult at all, felt that Americans in her neighborhood had exposure to the religion, good presence of African/Somalians. Biggest difficulty was finding halal food.
Section 4: 28:06—37:30
Employment: President of an ethnic empowerment group that distributes information about resources to refugees of different ethnicities.
Personal Finances: educates other refugees about food stamps, Medicaid, finding a doctor, credit card information, how to get rental apartments, American schooling system for their children, DMV/obtaining driver’s license
Language: work also involves translating letters for recently resettled refugees
Family: for refugees with children, informs them about American culture, encouraging them to participate in extracurriculars
Future: studying for the LSAT currently, passionate about social justice, aiding other people. Will apply to law school soon. A part of her American dream.
Education: shows her college graduation photos from Uganda
Family: shows several family photos of her mother and sisters back in Kenya, childhood photos. Mother mainly raised her sisters and her since her father was killed in a political war. Parent-teacher day in Kenya. Photos all from 2000 roughly.
Family/Pandemic: resettlement was the saddest and happiest day of her life. The pain of leaving her mother. Plan to visit her mother canceled by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Section 5: 37:30—43:00
Childhood: memories spent playing outside as a child, very active, outside all day with neighborhood children, no technology spurred great creativity. Described in detail all the toys that she and other children would make for themselves—matchstick houses, dolls etc
Discrimination: chooses not to focus on negative aspects but educates other people about her religion. Knows that her accent and her religion are portrayed negatively in the media but believes that her extroversion and drive can overcome negative stereotypes.
Future: believes that she and other people can play a part in humanizing each other and learning from each other—sense of purpose