Over 15 years ago, Nemo made her way from an Ethiopian refugee camp to America with refugee status. She was only 9 years old. She wasn’t educated and didn’t know what to expect. Nemo came to America with her older sister after their mother was killed in Africa. Her parents were separated and they were not for sure if her father was alive. Nemo had always had a gut feeling that told her that her father was still alive.
Nemo and her sister first lived in Kentucky and then moved to Memphis, TN. Upon arrival, Nemo was placed in the fourth grade and quickly began ESL classes. School was hard for Nemo, but once she began to learn English it got a little easier. She was not learning at the same level that the American kids were, but she worked hard to catch up. She finished American High School and proudly received her diploma, but like many refugee children entering in to American schools late, Nemo was unable to do well on college entrance exams.
Nemo got married and began her own family. She and her husband wanted them to have a good education and was very thankful that she could help provide that to them starting at an early age since they live in America. Nemo says, “Life in America is not easy, but it is a good life. We have everything we need and then some. I am thankful to America for helping us to have food, a good home, school and jobs.” Nemo and her husband both work full time jobs to help support their six children. They want their children to be able to go to college and to have a good job to be able to support themselves and help their family when they get older.
It’s been 15 years since Nemo left Ethiopia. She speaks fluent English and now has a good understanding of what American life is like. As a matter of fact, she had forgotten what life was like in the poor country that she came from. She had not, however, forgotten her father. Nemo still missed her father very much and over the years searched for him. Recently Nemo located her father; he is alive! She and her husband saved up some money so that Nemo could travel to visit him. Nemo admits that she was very nervous to meet her father after 15 years of not seeing him. She was afraid to fly on the airplane, but she did it for her father. She did not know what to expect with life in Ethiopia. Thankfully, she could still speak Somalian and would not have a problem communicating.
Villagers who connected to Nemo began telling her father that his daughter was coming to visit him. He was unsure if they were telling him the truth. He had heard his daughter was in America and just did not believe them. He was older and did not understand how to use the telephone, so he had never spoken to Nemo. Nemo tried hard to get messages to her father through other people that knew him. Once Nemo arrived to Ethiopia, the villagers told her father to go to her. He still did not believe them, but went with them anyways. Nemo was not sure she would recognize her father since she had not seen him in so long. She was nervous. And then…it happened! Nemo and her father were finally reunited! There was no doubt that the man before her was her father. He looked just like her. Her father new for sure that the woman was his grown up daughter; he could tell it was her instantly.
Nemo went to her father’s home in Ethiopia. It was there that she learned that she had other siblings and many cousins. She says that she can finally say that she has family of her own and even a dad. She sat in her daddy’s lap as if she were still 9; she did not care. She lay down beside him and they talked and talked. It was as if they had not ever been separated. She very much loves her daddy and has no shame in acknowledging that she is a daddy’s girl.
She told us her story about her visit with her daddy and what she saw and experienced as she held back her tears. Nemo did not remember not having a toilet to use the restroom, nor a kitchen with cold fridge and stove to cook on, or a school to go to, or warm blankets, or good clothes, or a shower with running hot water and soap. She did not remember having to struggle to find food and water the way her dad and siblings had to do everyday. Nemo was very sad and disgusted by the living conditions her father was living in with the children he was trying to take care of. She was upset they were not able to afford school. Her father’s home was nothing but some old pieces of torn material hanging over sticks. There was only a dirty mud floor to lay their head on to rest at night. Nemo cried. She called her husband to explain to him what conditions she was seeing her family to have to live in. With all of her heart, she wanted to scoop them all up and bring them to her home in America. Why had she gotten the chance to get out of the poverty? She felt no better than they and it hurt to see them live in the dirty, poor conditions they had to live in. She wondered if they even knew what all they were missing out on since they had never seen or experienced much of anything better.
Nemo had been in America for so long that it was hard for her to imagine what life was like in Ethiopia anymore. It shocked her to see the living situation of her father and continued to break her heart as she witnessed many of his neighbors struggling in Ethiopia. Children thanked her profusely as she handed them her left over bread from the little meals she ate.
Nemo has been working hard and even though she is not rich she feels that she makes enough money in America that she should give back to help her father, siblings and cousins that are struggling in Africa. After talking to her husband, Nemo and her husband decided to purchase a better home for her father to live in. In the short week that Nemo was in Africa, she bought her daddy a new home. It was not a home with many rooms like she had in America but it was a home with a better roof, walls, and better floor to live in. She purchased mattresses, blankets, dishes, clothes, shoes and food for them too. When her father was leaving his old makeshift home a neighbor lady begged for what scraps he was living in. This made Nemo sad, but somehow happy to let go of it for this lady in need. Nemo and her husband joyfully agreed to continue to pay $100 American Dollars a month to cover her father’s rent in Africa. Nemo feels blessed and, in return, wants to take care of her father and siblings.
Nemo wants Americans to know how appreciative she and her family are that we gave them an opportunity to be educated, work and live better. She thanks Americans from the bottom of her heart and wants us to know that there are many good families who live in very poor conditions that still need our help. She wants us to know that her Muslim family is a good family who loves all people and wants to work, go to school and give back to help others. She has been teaching her family about loving all people and helping one another. Her father is very proud of Nemo and also thankful to America for being good to his daughter. Her family was sad to see her leave to come back home to her life in America. Nemo only got to visit for one week but made the very most of her visit. She returned home and felt it important to teach her children to be thankful for the blessings God had given them.
Nemo is thankful for Asha’s Refuge and wants us to continue offering the services to newcomers as we do. Nemo says, “Today, more than ever before, she has a better understanding of how precious her life here in America is and how very important Asha’s Refuge is to so many striving to start their life over.”
Thank you America. Thank you Asha’s Refuge. (Pictures below are of Nemo and her father, her siblings and then you will see some of her with her six children today, happy, here in America.)
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