Refugee Mothers: Stories of Sacrifice and Love
Mothers are known for doing anything for their children. Jamila Abdulle’s story is an example of how true that sentiment is amongst refugee mothers.
In 2009, Jamila had to walk 1,200 kilometers to another country, while carrying her sick child in her arms in hopes of seeking medical attention. She made the journey from Mogadishu, Somalia to Kampala, Uganda to save her then 5-year-old daughter, Sagal. Sagal was born with a hole in her heart and was in desperate need of medical attention which was nowhere to be found in the war-torn area the family called home.
So Jamila made the difficult decision to leave behind her husband and seven other children to seek help. She joined a traveling group of men, elderly women and children and physically carried Sagal the entire way to Kampala for 21 days. Jamila even helped a pregnant woman in the group deliver along the way, using the knowledge she received from a nursing training program she had gone through. Sadly, Sagal’s condition grew worse along the treacherous journey.
Fortunately Jamila met another Somali family in a refugee camp in Kampala who referred her to a hospital run by the United Nations. From there, arrangements were made to send Jamila and Sagal to Phoenix through the International Rescue Committee in September 2011. Upon arriving, Sagal received open-heart surgery and is much healthier now. Sagal can now run and play with the other children in her neighborhood.
Challenges still lie ahead for Jamila in her new home. She has gotten by so far on assistance from the IRC and lives in Chandler with two Somali friends she became friends with upon after her arrival. The IRC is providing Jamila with critical employment services including vocational training and job applications. Despite those obstacles, Jamila has much to be hopeful for in Phoenix. She is happy her daughter is healing and says her favorite part of being a mother is “the beauty of being with my kids.”
April Chiu and Rud Moe are two student volunteers with Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees (COAR) at Arizona State University who met Jamila in October 2011 and can attest to her determined and passionate spirit. The IRC partners with COAR to provide newly arrived refugees with mentors who help them learn English and become familiar with American culture.
April said Jamila has done an exceptional job in caring for not only herself, but her daughter as well. “Both Jamila and Sagal are extremely intelligent, independent, and positive individuals. They are very compassionate and are very hospitable whenever my partner and I visit them in their home,” she said. “They are also very eager to learn new things, especially the English language. I feel that despite the language barrier we've been able to connect with Jamila and Sagal and are very fond of them.”
“Even though learning another language from scratch is a daunting task, Jamila has kept with it consistently. She is very sharp and pragmatic about her situation as a new immigrant.” Rud said.
Jamila hopes the rest of her family will join her in Phoenix as soon as possible. With the help of the IRC Jamila wants to learn English, find employment and eventually buy her own home. What ultimately gives her strength she said is her desire to complete her nursing training so she can have more opportunities. No matter what it takes, Jamila is willing to go above and beyond for her family and that’s what makes her a woman to celebrate.
For information on volunteering please contact Emily Taylor, Volunteer Coordinator, at Emily.Taylor@Rescue.org
Story by Nesima Aberra, communications intern
Picture by Prassana Sampath