Story N°1 — BARAKA
When I first got to Boise, I was like, ‘This is a beautiful city.’ The snow, the sun was just setting, it was March so it was close to spring. There were trees with no leaves. One thing I really find weird is the fact that I wasn’t shocked that I was here. It felt like, ‘Man, this is the place I have always wanted to be.’ I was like ‘This feels like home, it feels good.’
I remember coming in and the teachers introducing me to my classes and me introducing myself to my classmates. And I remember them saying ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I’m from Africa,’ and they would say these things that never happened in Africa. Never. At least to me. They really think that we have this communion with animals, like we love wild animals very much. They thought I lived in a tribe, which a couple people do still live in a tribe there but I didn’t, I lived in a city. It was pretty weird seeing how they view us. And the difference between how we view them. I don’t think I felt offended, I think there was an empathy that I had because when I lived in Kenya, there were pictures painted about the US that were very untrue. So I was like ‘I was like you when I was there.’ I understood. I just think some of the notions were very ridiculous. I don’t blame them. But some of them were very far from the truth.
I think a refugee is not just a person fleeing disaster. I think a refugee is a person that strives to liberate a whole generation. Because the reason why there is America is because a group of people went from Europe to here because they wanted a better life, and look what we have now. So a refugee is not just a person who takes space and eats your food and takes your money. I think a refugee is a person who strives to make a better way for their generation. It’s not just a one-sided perspective. When you see one person getting out of another country to come into yours, it’s not just one person, it’s a lineage of people. And when you reject that one person, you are rejecting his whole generation. So I feel like having that perspective of consumerism and what it’s going to take out of the country, I think that’s human. I think it’s very natural for us to look at the compromise and say ‘What if we lose this?’ Sometimes it’s very hard to see what you will gain because what you will gain is definitely not money. It’s something more beautiful and abstract and less tangible.
Story N°2 — SAR BAH BI
In Burma, it’s bad, too much problems, fighting. They kill people. And we have a hard time. It’s not easy, even Thailand too. That time, I was young. I leave my family in there. Before in the past, we have hard time, run away from Burma, because the people from Burma, they’re shooting, you know. They don’t like Muslims. They don’t like each other. They hate Muslim people. I don’t know why.
Refugee camp is not good. We couldn’t do a lot of things like in America. I want to go back sometimes, back home. I have my grandma, my uncle, grandpa, they live in Burma, in refugee camp too. I’m trying to get citizenship so I can go back to Burma, maybe go to visit and come back here.
Me and my husband, we dated two years. We meet at school. YMCA. So we start liking each other. Boyfriend, girlfriend. I go to school, I like him, he like me, so we love each other and we decide to get married and then, and I’m happy to get married too because my family, they don’t have to help me. You know, I can help my family if I get married. And right now, we still now working harder, helping each other.
He like my family and I like his family. And my family like him too. My brother, sister helping him garden. And my two brothers live with me, helping him garden, every Monday through Friday.
Refugee, we don’t have no life over there. But, we trying to do something, trying to come to America, we apply for a year, two years, three years, and then we get it. It’s not easy to come to America. You have to wait, a lot of patience to get it. And it's not easy to leave the family back home. I told my mom, I don’t want to come to America because I want to live with my grandma because she’s alone. Someday I will go back.
I like Boise. You can do a lot of things. I do garden, helping my husband. Monday through Friday harvesting so we can make a business, and selling at Boise Capital Market. And I go to work, five o’clock to three a.m. I like working, because I don’t like staying home, boring. I work with my husband. We work the same job at Wells Fargo Bank, cleaning. And we happy. I’d love to open a restaurant. But I know that it costs money, and you have to learn a lot of things about America first.
Story N°3 — HAJIA
Angie: When you came into the airport, who was there to pick you up?Hajia: Our case manager, Carly, and others of our families here in Idaho.
Angie: Did they take you to your new house?
Hajia: No. When we came here, we didn't have a house. So we used to live in our aunt's house for one month, and then they find for us a house and then that's when we came here.
Angie: And what was your first year at school like?
Hajia: It was good. There was good friends, good people. When I needed help, there was people to help me. I didn't have trouble with anything.
Angie: Do you like to study? What do you like to study?
Hajia: Science, and Social Studies, and English.
Angie: What do you wanna be when you grow up? What's your dream?
Hajia: I wanna be a doctor.
Angie: Do you have any other dreams?
Hajia: Yeah. My other dream is I'd like go back to my country and see my friends.
Angie: And what kinds of things do you miss about Kenya?
Hajia: I miss to see the house that I used to live in.
Angie: Thinking about your life in Kenya and the culture there and being a woman, and then the culture here in America and being a woman, do you feel like you have more freedom here?
Hajia: Yeah, I have more freedom here.
Angie: In what way?
Hajia: Here, we can do everything we want.
Angie: Now that you are in America and you think about your future, have the two things changed, what you imagined?
Hajia: No. I had the same dream in Africa and here, too.
Story N°4 — MEMO
I born in Baghdad, Iraq. When I told my family I was gay, I first told my two brothers and my mom. I said ‘I just want to tell you, I’m feeling bisexual. I’m interested in men and women.’ My older brother, he just go crazy. He went to his room, grabbed his gun and wanted to shoot me. My mom just pushed me away and stand against him and told me, ‘Just get out.’ I’m only sixteen years old, I didn’t know where to go. So I just left. I went to Syria. I stayed there for almost two and a half years.
I came here in May 2012. Then a whole new problems started here. Language, culture, no one, no friends. After three months, I just gave up on my life, I tried to kill myself, but it didn’t work. I took a lot of medicine. I just wanted to kill myself because I’m tired. They said if you ever do that again, you will be in jail forever. That’s what the judge said. It scared me, to be honest. At the same time I thought, wow, I gave up on my life but now I am back in life. Let me just start a new life. I always start a new life, since left my country I have been starting over and over. Sometimes I smile when I talk about it or I laugh, but inside it’s killing me.
I’m tired of losing people. I have been losing people my entire life. Losing my friends, losing my best friend, losing a lot of people to stupid ISIS. I’m like no, I will live my life however I want it. And people will accept it or not. Not just accept me as being gay or straight, but accept me as who I am. Once I open that, now I am not afraid to say to anyone, I am gay. They can decide if they want to be friends with me. If you want to be friends with me, you are more than welcome to be friends. If not, move on, and I move on with my life.
I decided to do what I did in [Gay] pride, to be more open to everyone. So I wrote down my first and last name, Iraqi, refugee, gay, and that’s how I become out.
It felt great. I feel like I am not afraid of anything. I am more open to a lot of people, more open to myself, being who I am. I have always wanted to live a life as who I am. People will accept me as who I am, not just accept me being gay or straight. Once I open that, I’m not afraid to tell anyone I am gay. I was even shaking when I walked. Even when I did it, I still got scared, but I just walked. Walked with a big smile and waving at everyone, proud being gay in Idaho.
Story N°4 — AWOT
In 1998 we got in a war with Ethiopia because of the border. That time of my age was to serve military, to defend the country, but I’m the one who takes care of my four sisters and I was in school also. I am the man who take responsibilities of my family, and my third reason is I had accident, I am disabled my right leg, and I asked the government to give me favor because I couldn't survive the military service. The government did not accept my request: either go to military or go and leave the country to refugee camp.
It was hard to find a job when I first came [to Boise] in 2010. Later on I got help from Idaho Department of Labor. They were paying me for going to class related to my cooking skills. Then I had met non-profit organization [Create Common Good] and I took class with them. After ninety days they see my potential and they hire me. I think I was a very good team player with all of them, they loved me and I loved them. I was working hard because I got married and I got my kid so I worked hard to get out from the apartment. I don't want to stay with my kids in an apartment. My dream was to buy a house and I bought my house in 2013.
My dream is to open another big store but it will be take a while. I am always dreaming. Thanks god, my first goal I got it, my first dream, it was having home. So I did it, and my second dream is to have a small business and I have it. God is helping me to reach the big goal and my hope is I will. I will do it, whatever time it takes.
The Boise people I see, they are very welcoming to refugees, they encourage us to improve our English, to have better job, to have better life. From Create Common Good I met a lot of interesting people, amazing people, they change my life. I don’t want to forget my volunteer, Michael. I will never forget him in my life. He is making me a man in this city. He was teaching me to ask, ‘are you guys hiring people at this time? Who is your boss?’ Pushing me to speak with people, and teaching me how I can be successful. He is the first person making me successful in this country. And still he is beside me if I have any difficulty. At this time, I am trying to help anyone who is lower than me. Wherever I am from, inside my community or outside, I don’t care, if someone need help, whenever I can, I help.