For Dahabo, one of the best things about living in the United States is simply being able to walk out the front door. For the past seven years, Dahabo has been living in Rochester, and for more than 20 years before that she lived in Kenyan refugee camps. But Somalia—a place she both loved and feared—was her original home. Dahabo and her husband lived a simple life in Somalia.
They were farmers, raising bananas, strawberries, mangos and apples, as well as garden vegetables. They had some cows, goats and chickens, as well as a camel. Dahabo would also make beaded bracelets and sew clothing. She’d take all that back in a heartbeat now, if only she knew that she and her family could live in safety.
In 1991, rebels overthrew the Somali government, setting off more than two decades of civil war. It wasn’t safe to venture outside when the fighting was near, but the fighting wasn’t even the worst of it. In addition to the thousands killed by militia groups, thousands more died of famine and disease. Over the first two years of the conflict, an estimated 350,000 Somalis died.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Somalis, Dahabo and her family fled, eventually landing in refugee camps in Kenya. Nearly half a million Somalis remain in Kenya, but thousands have been dispersed in recent years.
Dahabo, her husband and their eight children are starting over in the US. Her husband works in a factory, and three of her children have gained US citizenship. That’s a path Dahabo might take if she keeps learning. She’s studying English and learning more about her new home through educational programming provided by Refugees Helping Refugees. The group is currently holding classes at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, but they’ve outgrown that space and hope to relocate soon.