Connect with us

Diaspora

Multicultural collection: West Fargo boys soccer providing home for international students

Published

on

INFORUM — West Fargo – Mohamed Hamza doesn’t remember everything from his early childhood in Kenya, but he does remember kicking a soccer ball. Organizing soccer games against other neighborhoods is basically all his friends wanted to do.

When he moved to the United States at 8 years old, Hamza picked up English quickly. But the West Fargo High School senior connected with his fellow Packers through the language he knew best in soccer.

“It’s something I can bring over from there to here,” Hamza said. “It’s something that’s familiar. It’s a language that we can all speak here. It’s helped me build a lot of relationships and friendships that have carried on to other parts of my life.”

West Fargo, which enters this week’s North Dakota state tournament in Jamestown as the East Region’s No. 1 seed, is a home to a wide range of international students.

Among every student and coach on their boys soccer varsity roster, the Packers come from nine different countries and can speak 13 different languages. Sabiti Morisho is from Zambia and can speak Swahili, Bemba, Nyanja and Chitonga. Ibrahim Salou is from Togo and can speak French, Mina and Ewe. Levi Larteh, Enoch Gartei, Telvin Vah and assistant coach Jackson Dunor are from Liberia and speak a Liberian language. Junior Ouattara is from the Ivory Coast region and speaks French, as does Michael Byaoma. Yussuf Mohamed, Abdirizak Ali and Hamza are from Kenya and speak Somali, Swahili and Arabic. Purna Rana and Jewan Mangar are from Nepal and speak Nepali. Mohamed Isse and Omar Ahmed are from Somalia and speak Somali. Assistant coach George Gauld is also from England.

Packers head coach James Moe believes his team is special because these kids from diverse backgrounds can come together, build relationships and excel on the level they are. The Packers are the defending state champions and won their first Eastern Dakota Conference regular-season championship this season.

“(Soccer is) the only thing anybody plays,” Hamza said of Kenya. “It’s the one physical language we can all understand.”

Hamza said the talent level may be higher in Kenya, but the sport is much more organized in the United States. When he came to West Fargo in the second grade, not many kids were playing soccer during recess so Hamza easily looked like the best player around.

Although soccer is a major passion of his, Hamza’s attention is on his education. His parents brought him to the United States for a better life and is now looking at becoming a pre-medical student in college.

“My parents wanted a better education, better environment, better everything than what we were receiving,” Hamza said. “It’s just a better lifestyle here.”

Working with these widely different players is like finding the right pieces to a puzzle, Moe said, and the major challenge is teaching them the system of organized soccer with a stronger focus on positions. Moe will often work with different coaches who know how to speak these players’ languages or dialects so they can communicate with the players from the sidelines as they learn English.

“Soccer is a common language with guys from all the different backgrounds we have,” Moe said. “It’s a way these guys connect and feel a part of something. It’s something they all understand. The way they play might be different, but ultimately the rules and goals are all the same, and so that really puts them on the same page.”

Vah was born and raised in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, where he fell in love with soccer. Growing up, Vah went to the local fields and watched his three uncles play in community leagues every weekend. Vah’s father was hired in New Jersey when Vah was in the fourth grade looking for a better life for his children.

“Everyone wants to follow their dreams, so he wanted a better life for my family,” Vah said. “He looked forward to making a family in a better place and me getting a better opportunity.”

James Mehn, Vah’s uncle, is one of the best soccer players Vah knew and still communicates with the West Fargo junior every week to ask how his soccer matches went and how the team looks. Vah wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps so he dedicated himself to soccer with the continual support of his family.

Now Vah is getting college offers. His top choices are the University of Chicago, University of Tampa, University of California-Santa Barbara and Louisville.

“It was definitely hard leaving because you come to a new country,” Vah said. “You don’t know anyone. Your parents go to work from the morning to the evening, so you just have to do what you can do, stay out of trouble and work hard.”

Soccer provides an outlet to relate, Moe said. The players who don’t know English right away feel much more at ease when they play soccer, Moe said, and because of their time in organized activities when they play soccer, these players grow from silent role players to vocal leaders.

“It’s really fun to see the growth and the comfort,” Moe said. “It’s a way for everyone to be a part of something.”

N.D. STATE SOCCER TOURNAMENT

At Jamestown

Thursday’s opening-round games

Bismarck Century vs. Fargo Shanley, noon

Fargo South vs. Bismarck, 2:15 p.m.

West Fargo vs. Mandan, 4:30 p.m.

Minot vs. Fargo Davies, 6:45 p.m.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Diaspora

‘We Feel Like We Are All Family’: Somali Refugees Share Their First Thanksgiving In Lowell

Published

on

Every inch of the dinner table is covered with food. There are holiday basics like turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, and then there are family specialties like samosas.

Hawo Ahmed, 24, scans the options, pointing out a spicy sauce her sister made to eat with the pooris, a sort of savory pastry. Then she comes across an American dish and asks, “I don’t know about this, what is this?”

“This is cranberry sauce,” one of the family’s guests says with a laugh.

Thanksgiving dinner came a little early for the Ahmed family in Lowell. It’s the first Thanksgiving the Somali refugees — three daughters and their mother — have experienced in the United States.

The Ahmeds move effortlessly between the living room and the kitchen, welcoming people and socializing with such a natural air that you’d think they’ve hosted the holiday before.

In fact, the family just arrived to this country 10 months ago.

The International Institute of New England, the agency helping them resettle, deployed a team of about 10 volunteers to lead the family’s transition. The volunteers bring the women to doctors’ appointments, help them open checking accounts, and teach them how to pay their bills.

Howa Ahmed helps herself to cranberry sauce as twin sister Muna picks up a piece of gingerbread during a Thanksgiving feast celebrated on Sunday before the holiday with volunteers from the International Institute of New England. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

And on this evening, the team brings the family a Thanksgiving spread, complete with mini chocolate turkeys and an abbreviated lesson on the meaning of the holiday from team captain Sherry Mulroy.

“We thought it was especially nice to share [Thanksgiving] with you, to introduce you to this tradition, but also because we are very thankful that we met you,” Mulroy says to the Ahmeds. “We are very thankful to have been able to help you out. You have always been so understanding of us and we look forward to a long friendship with you.”

By all accounts, the Ahmeds are adjusting remarkably well to their new surroundings. Identical twin sisters Hawo and Muna are working full time making medical devices and are studying for the GRE exam. They’ve also managed to become certified phlebotomists, all in less than year. Younger sister Asha and their mother Fatuma work as seamstresses and are learning English.

But according to one of the agency’s volunteers, Janet Amphlett of Cambridge, there have been a few bumps along the way.

(L-R) Hawo Ahmed, her sister Muna, their mother Fatuma Nur, and sister Asha listen as Sherry Mullroy, far right, attempts to explain the history of Thanksgiving. (Jesse Fosta/WBUR)

“They’re learning how to write checks,” Amphlett says. “I went to go mail two checks to National Grid for them, but the stamp was in the middle of the envelope, the address wasn’t legible through the window so, now — you don’t realize that these are learned things, right?”

Hawo says she and her family are learning all kinds of new things, like how to use a debit card and how to navigate public transportation. And Hawo is learning how to drive. With a bright smile on her face, she says she’s still learning to control the steering wheel.

From sharing something as mundane as addressing an envelope, to new milestones like learning to drive, the Ahmeds and the volunteers have grown to understand each other — even though they come from very different worlds.

Hawo and Muna were only a few months old when their parents fled civil war in Somalia. Asha, 22, was born in Kenya, where the family lived as refugees for more than 20 years until they arrived in Lowell in January, only a few days before President Trump signed his original travel ban.

When they first arrived, Hawo and Muna said they were nervous and didn’t know what to expect in their new home country. But that’s changed.

A curious Janet Amphlett listens as Howa Ahmed describes the different Somali dishes that are offered on the table. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“I think we were meant to be here,” Muna says, “because we have seen what life is all about.”

Hawo chimes in: “They say that sharing is caring so we feel like we are all family, there’s no difference at all.”

Hawo says they all try to keep in touch with their family still living in Somalia as best they can. But on this night, in their modest one-bedroom apartment, the Ahmeds are surrounded by a new family.

Continue Reading

Diaspora

Hawa Hassan: Refugee wants better care for son with muscular dystrophy

Published

on

STATESMAN — A year after leaving a Kenyan refugee camp — the only home she’s ever truly known — Hawa Hassan says life for her and her children in America hasn’t been easy.

Hassan’s 9-year-old son, Haji Mada, was taking a few steps at a time while in Kenya, but he has lost the ability to walk. Only after he arrived in Austin did doctors diagnose him with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Hassan, 30, wishes she had thicker rugs to cover the linoleum floors of her East Austin apartment so that Haji’s knees won’t hurt as much when he crawls.

“You have to feel bad because at the beginning your child used to walk and now he’s just sitting down,” says Hassan through a translator. Hassan said her brother probably had the same disorder as Haji — he was born healthy but lost the ability to walk as he aged — and he died when he was 25. Doctors are asking Hassan to prepare for the same fate for Haji, Hassan said.

Although Haji’s two sisters, Sadiya Hamadi, 11, and Fatuma Noor, 6, are already speaking to each other in English, Haji remains largely quiet.

Haji does not receive physical therapy; Hassan wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to stretch her son before she ushers all three children onto the school bus. Hassan can’t speak English well and doesn’t know how to drive. Much of her time is spent alone in her apartment. The children’s father, whom she separated from several years ago, is still in Kenya.

Hassan, who has developed a relationship with a refugee she knew from Kenya but who now lives in Houston, is pregnant with her fourth child. Doctors say if the baby is a boy, he could develop the same genetic disorder as Haji, Hassan said.

She wants to work and be able to send money back to Kenya to support her family, but she’s not ready yet to hand off her children, especially Haji, to another caretaker. The family lives off of the disability money that Haji receives — about $700 per month.

“When it’s difficult, I seek God,” says Hassan, who is Muslim.

Hassan says she doesn’t remember certain parts of her life; her caseworker says that she has likely experienced trauma. Hassan, who doesn’t know her exact birthdate other than that she was born in 1987, fled war-torn Somalia as a child. At the refugee camp in Kenya, Hassan was able to attend school for the first time, but that ended in the seventh grade. She helped her family farm foods like corn and sold things here and there at the market to make some extra money.

Although she heard from family and friends that America had more opportunities, she said she was skeptical and wanted to find out for herself. She applied and waited six years to be resettled.

Hassan says that America hasn’t been what people have said it would be, but she loves the public school system. Haji and his two sisters recently enrolled at Allison Elementary School about 20 minutes from their apartment so that he could receive better special education services. Sadiya and Fatuma are becoming fluent in English, and their favorite subject is reading.

Hassan doesn’t dismiss the possibility that she might return to school once the children are grown.

The Hassan family’s wishes

Motorized wheelchair for Haji; pots and pans as well as cooking utensils; H-E-B gift cards; reusable grocery bags; new bedding; beds, mirror and dresser, couches, coffee table, TV stand and high-ply area rugs; translation assistance; minivan with wheelchair lift; car insurance and gas gift cards; driver’s education for Hawa; iPad; a bike for Fatuma; art supplies; school supplies; toys; children’s books; crib, blankets and sheets, car seat, changing table, highchair, baby clothes for new baby; clothes for Sadiya, girls size 10-12, Haji, boys size 6-7 and Fatuma, girls size 6-7; and physical therapy for Haji.

Continue Reading

Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

Published

on

WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

TRENDING