Somali Refugee Shares Syracuse Resettlement Story: ‘Here, I Help Myself’

(STN-MUQDISHO):_ Fadumo Warsame is 25, but all her documents say she’s 28.

She laughs over this. She has tried to fix her ID cards, with little luck.

Warsame [war-SAH-may] is a refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia. She fled her home at age 13, and was transferred from country to country throughout her formative years. She settled in Syracuse in 2016.

The Somalian embassy in China misprinted her age when she arrived as a teenager. Officials said she would eventually be able to change it. Years later, it’s still wrong.

It’s hard to fix, even now that she’s in the U.S. She’s still learning English, so just getting someone to understand her problem is a barrier.

A long journey to the U.S.

Warsame family’s house burned down when she was 13. This was a common occurrence in her neighborhood, she said.

She was at school during the fire. By the time she returned home, her mother took her siblings and left. They were separated.

“In Somalia, they kill the children, they kill the women,” said Warsame. She knew she was not safe.

At a young age, she had already experienced violence in Somalia. Terrorists killed her father in the street when she was a child.

“He was buying shoes,” Warsame said. “There was no reason.”

 

Fadumo Warsame, 25, is a refugee from Somalia. She now lives in Syracuse and works at Gaylord Archival.

 

 

After searching for her family in the fire wreckage, Warsame went to a neighbor for help. They moved her to a refugee shelter in Nairobi, Kenya, where she developed appendicitis.

She didn’t have enough money to get an operation in Nairobi, so the program moved her to China for medical care. There, her appendix was removed. She stayed there for several years, waiting for relocation.

In China, Warsame said she could not attend school or work.

“I was 13 years old,” she said. “I need[ed] to study. Imagine. You eat, you sleep, you wake up. That’s it.”

Warsame hasn’t spoken to her family ever since the separation. In China, she was told her sister and brothers were living in South Africa, but no one helped her make contact. She misses them.

“I don’t have the number,” she said. “I try to talk and have number but I don’t know how to.”

She struggled to communicate with Chinese officials to find her family. She thinks her mother is in Somalia, but isn’t certain.

“I hope one day to talk [to] her.”

New beginnings in America

 

Warsame met her husband, Abdi, in 2013. He was also a refugee living in China, awaiting resettlement.

They both were assigned to live in the U.S. by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), a global organization dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees.

 

Abdi arrived in Syracuse first. Warsame followed in 2016. Refugees in Onondaga County primarily come from Somalia, Burma and Bhutan.

 

Four months ago, Warsame started working in production at Gaylord Archival. English was easier to learn than Mandarin, she said.

“I really like it,” she said. “Good people. They help me. In Syracuse…the best in my ever life. Here, I help myself. I can work. I can study. I feel happy every time.”

Abdi began studying information technology at OCC, then transferred to SUNY Potsdam. The couple has one daughter, Sarah, who is almost two.

Warsame is six months pregnant with her second child, a boy. He will be named Adam.

“Warsame” is a traditional Somali name, which translates to “bearer of good news.”

 

 

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