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Starting again: hearing from a young refugee

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Photo: Lindsay Dussard/IRC


We would like to share the story from one of our students in the After School Youth Program. Makia Adam arrived in the U.S. in 2015 and began working with IRC in Silver Spring in the summer of 2018 when she became a freshman in high school.  She has since been participating in the IRC CONNECT youth programs: Summer Academy (including the Global Leaders Cohort), After School Program, Service Saturdays, and Field Trips. Lindsay Dusard, IRC in Silver Spring Out of School Specialist, has been working with Makia to share her story. Makia has developed an interest in writing and would like to continue to use her literary voice to share stories and empower others.

Let’s Start Again By Makia Adam


The only things I know about Sudan have been told to me in stories. I was only a baby when my family left. We had lived in a large village that had many goats, cows, and sheep and endless vegetable and fruit gardens. My father was dedicated to studying the Quran and learning Arabic. My mother loved to spend time with her animals and in the garden with her friends, eating delicious fruit.

When the violence started in my village, no one knew that a war was coming. The soldiers came while people were out at work and at the market. Families were separated and people ran to save their lives. My family left in search of a safe place to live. We ended up in a refugee camp in Chad.

Things in Chad were not easy, but I have many good memories. My parents would always encourage us to go to school. They would point to the UN workers and tell me and my brothers that if we got a good education, we can be like them, traveling the world helping others. I loved going to school. Sometimes there were not enough books and chairs for all the students, but I did not mind. My favorite thing to study was math. I had so many great friends in Chad. My family was well known in the camp and people would always greet us when we went out.

My sister became sick and doctors in the camp told my father that she must go somewhere else for treatment to save her. My father and sister travelled to another city in Chad. The doctor decided that her liver was not well and that she needed to go to another country to receive proper medical care.

UN workers told my father that we could apply to go to a new country with the doctor’s support. My parents talked about it. My mom was nervous to leave, but my father knew it would be best for our family. We filled out applications, did many interviews and waited. After about three years, my family found out that we were about to leave for the United States. At first, I was excited to see this new place I would be living. I was also nervous though because I did not know the language. I would have to leave all my best friends, my school teachers, and all I had known growing up. On the day we left, more than 100 people gathered together crying saying goodbye.

After one month in the US, I started middle school. Not knowing the language was so hard. I was not making friends and I felt alone. My best friend Sumia, who was still living in Chad, lost her phone and we lost contact. During those first few months, I became even closer with my family as we tried to adjust to our new home together. I kept trying my best in school. A few months past and I started to understand what the teacher was saying.

Now I am in high school. It is very challenging, but my hard work in middle school has helped me understand more English. I really pushed myself to learn the language, sometimes telling my friends I could not play outside because I had to study. I will keep working hard to achieve my dream to become a surgeon. I know this will be hard, but I think if I keep pushing myself as I am now, I can handle the challenge. My mom has always wanted me to be a doctor because many people back home could not get good medical treatment. If I become a doctor, I want to go back and help those in need. Maybe one day I will get to see my friend Sumia again too.