There are more than 65 million refugees in the world today, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC). This staggering number is more than a statistic as it ultimately represents human lives, each one with a profound story behind it. This is the story of Sahro.
Sahro is originally from Mogadishu, Somalia. The conflict in her homeland tore apart her family and she was forced to flee into neighboring Kenya. There, in the capital city of Nairobi, she received aid from Heshima Kenya, an organization devoted to protecting unaccompanied minors and separated youth from exploitation and abuse.
Co-founded by Anne Sweeney and Yalyn Good, the organization has directly supported refugee children and youth through girls’ empowerment projects as well as sexual- and gender-based violence campaigns. Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) works closely with Heshima Kenya and funds several programs including language proficiency courses and tailoring classes.
“I’m one of the Heshima Kenya girls,” Sahro said. “I have an education. I have life skills. I had tailoring classes, and I make handmade scarves.”
About three years ago, Sahro resettled to the United States. She was invited to speak about Heshima Kenya at an event in Boston and her story deeply moved one of the supporters. He offered her a job in Chicago, where she soon moved.
Earlier this week, she visited the ZF headquarter office in Chicago and presented her story to the ZF staff. Her tale of survival in the face of adversity deeply moved the audience. ZF is also working on a documentary focused on Sahro’s story to highlight the present global refugee crisis.
It took her awhile to adjust to living in a country with different social and cultural norms, but she is beginning to feel more comfortable. She recently spoke to her mother, who is currently in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and suffers from memory loss. Her brother is with her mother, but she is still looking for more family members. Sahro said she thinks the most important priorities for helping refugees are medical support, shelter, and then food and water.
Her circumstances make it difficult to stay connected to the family she grew up with, but Sahro is not alone in her journey of empowerment. She is married and has a young son, and her goals revolve around helping people better themselves.