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Refugee: a Hero or Zero?

Time 0:03:43


May 2012 was when I heard the news. I had to wrap up my last 10 years in 10 days. I was going moving again, but this time it was different.

When I was 8 years old, my mother took me in the moonlight down to the harbour in Kismayo. She put me on a boat, knowing that many other boats were lost in the sea, but wanted to save me and she had faith that I would be the lucky one to make it. Finally when I reached Mombasa harbor, Kenyan Coast Guards refused the boat to dock as Kenya was overwhelmed by so many refugees. We stayed on the boat for weeks until they finally let us in.

As a young boy living a refugee camp, we played soccer in the open field, making our soccer ball from socks and newspapers. I remember that I had to save coins and beg the bigger boys in the camp to take me to the cinema to watch my first world cup. But there were scary times as well, like when the fires started in one zone and spread to the next. While the adults were busy putting out the fires, the children were searching the ashes for coins. When the bulldozers came to shut down the refugee camp, I was smuggled across the border to Ethiopia.

In this new country, I was able to begin my first formal education. I was very nervous, but I liked learning, and made many new friends. I was really hopeful because I knew education could take me far, and I finally had a chance. In my 9th grade, there was student uprising in Ethiopia. A lot of foreigners were afraid it would be unstable, and my aunty invited me to join her in Egypt.

I finished high school in Egypt, and I was the first cohort in the Cape Breton University campus at the Canadian International College in Cairo. I obtained my bachelor degree, the first in my family to do so. Little did I know, a few years later I would live in the country where my degree was from. While I was working with refugees and asylum seekers, I found out that I could apply for private sponsorship to with support of a relative in Canada. The application was in process when the revolution began. The insecurity was very high, and the military were after the organizations like the one where I worked that received international funding. This sped up my application, and very shortly after I was headed to Canada.

It’s a different world that I could only imagine in my head, but now I am experiencing it. I am all of the pieces of all of those countries I have been. Every place I lived I considered home, but Canada is different. By status they give me, for the first time it feels permanent.

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