By Mike Puckett
Ku soodhawada magalada Louisville, Sahra iyo goyskeeda! These are the Somali words with which Beargrass and Kentucky Refugee Ministries greeted Sahra Mohammed Ali and her six children at the Louisville International Airport late on the evening of February 21 (English translation: Welcome to Louisville, Sahra and family!). Twenty adults and youth were on hand from Beargrass that cold evening, along with KRM representatives and an interpreter, to celebrate the end of their nomadic journey and their arrival here; help ease their entry into a nation finally willing to say to them “we want you”; and facilitate their last few miles to a new home which was energetically, generously and lovingly prepared five days earlier by two dozen Beargrass-faithful, coordinated by team-leader, Wayne Mayes. Although none of them speak English, Sumaya, Siham, Sabrin, Suhar, Ahmed and Omar (ages 15 down to 10) shared beautiful smiles and spirits that first evening, and they’ve continued to do so as the pace and fabric of their lives have changed dramatically in these early weeks.
Here’s a sampling of their first two weeks in Louisville (and some of the Beargrass folks who helped make it happen): Day One—they shared a traditional Somali meal arranged by Charlie Casper at their 3-bedroom apartment in Rangeland Apts. upon arrival from the airport; Day Two—Laurie Callander, Beth Jolly, Pat Teeter and John Fischer took them shopping for clothes and shoes at Target; Day Three—Stephanie Melder and Karen Smith took them grocery shopping at Walmart; Day Five—we registered them with JCPS at KRM; Day Six—they had in-take orientations with the state and KRM; Day Seven—they visited Social Security for registration; Day Eight—more grocery shopping and household training with Stephanie; Day Nine—Mom began ESL classes at KRM; Day Twelve—all four girls began classes at the ESL Newcomer Academy at Shawnee HS; Day Thirteen—the boys (and the two youngest) began classes at Rangeland Elementary. After spending their entire lives in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Eqypt (the last 4 years), can you imagine the impact of this dizzying pace of change? Can you imagine the courage, the faith, the hope, which Sahra has exhibited to her children in finding them refuge and relocating them halfway around the globe?
It is evident that through her example Sahra has instilled her sense of hope deeply within each of her children. On the day of their in-take orientation at KRM, each was asked, from oldest to youngest, about their respective aspirations here in the US. Their responses—doctor; lawyer/social worker; engineer; doctor; policeman; and pilot. Rather remarkable, given how the world has marginalized them to date, and the fact their collective educational span is grades one through six. Sahra, who has an 8th grade education, announced her goals as learning English, getting a job (her only experience is as a domestic housekeeper), and, hopefully, making a difference for her kids.
Hope—an essential ingredient in the human spirit. Thanks to the good works of KRM and the Beargrass family, it is alive and well in each member of the Ali family. And, thanks to God’s love and grace, it is in full view and available to each of us as we travel the Lenten journey.