Aug 6, 2013

Inspiring Ramadan Stories from Refugees in Dadaab Camps

                                  Ramadan Story 1

My name is Fardosa Mahamed Ibrahim. I am a 28 years old Oromo girl from Ethiopia. I am a Muslim and I am celebrating Ramadan this month. I am from Yavelow, Ethiopia, not far from the Kenya border. 

I now live here in Dadaab in Ifo camp with my young brother. I live here with my brother because my parents were killed in a tribal conflict in 2008. We had to run to Kenya for protection.  There was usually conflict between the Oromo and Borana tribes.

One day when my brother and I were in school, cattle raiders raided our home. They shot my mother in the forehead and killed her. My father was shot in the side chest and was paralyzed for 8 months after which he died.  I couldn’t take the pain. I decided to bring my brother to Kenya for safety.

I am now a student here at the Youth Educational Program center and I learn catering. So far it is going great. I’m always exposed to cooking as a student. That’s what we do. It’s a challenge sometimes but I haven’t betrayed my faith.
It’s amazing being here in this school. Before I joined I didn’t know how to write or even speak properly. I’ve learned clear communication, but also cooking. My family and friends appreciate that. They say it’s good I joined the school.

When not fasting, we usually taste food as we learn to prepare it but I can’t do that with Ramadan. I get tempted all the time but instead of tasting my food at school, I often keep some to share with my brother when we break fast in the evening.  
It’s my personal faith to fast. There are so many months in a year to eat. These thirty days are sacrificial days and I only have to wait until the right time to break the fast.  

Some of the food that we cook here is special. Not the stuff that we usually have in our homes.  We learn to prepare Pizza, Njera, Mandazi and Samosas.  I’ve resisted the temptation to taste the food so many times; it strengthens my faith.

I’ll be here until I finish my studies. My next plan is to learn hairdressing and once my English is better, I will learn computers as well.

    Ramadan Story 2
My name is Kahie Abdi Ali and I am 27 years old. I first came to Kenya in 1991 fleeing conflict in Kismayo Somalia just after my parents were killed. I am now married to one wife whom we have been together for four months. 

Ramadan is usually a very special month to me. This one is particularly important because I feel like my faith has been re-energized. I feel like my Muslim brothers and sisters and even those that are not Muslims are closer to me than ever.  

I am an interpreter at the UNHCR field office. I am lucky to be one of the refugees with a job and I am glad to share what I have with many of my friends and neighbors who don’t have much. I usually break my fast by sharing meals with those who don’t have because I feel that caring for others is the Godly thing to do.

I feel closer to God every often I pray. This Ramadan has offered more opportunities for me to meditate even more. We usually have extra prayers during this month but personally, I even do more. The last ten days of Ramadan are going to be even more important to me because of Lailatulul Qadr (the night of blessings or night of power). 

This night is better than a thousand months (83 years, 4 months according to the holly Quran). It occurs in one of the last ten days of Ramadan and it’s of great importance and enormous blessings for Muslims. I will never want to miss my blessings. 

I have been interpreting for the last 8 years and I know a lot of people in the camps as a result of my job. I therefore find this month different from other months because people are peaceful and are closer to God because of prayers. I love it that way.

                                 Ramadan Story 3

My name is Anab Abdisalam Athil. I am a mother of six children. This is my first Ramadan in this refugee camp because I only came here towards the end of last year. It appears different. When my six children were home they were healthy, now they take turns being sick. 

Their father was supporting and helping us in Kismayo but here, I have to do it all alone.

Since their father is not around. I take care of their daily needs including stationeries, foods and clothing.  I fully depend on my ration card to adapt. I have no job or other support. I sell some of the ration food to be able to buy other types of food for my children. 

I don’t know my husbands whereabouts. We separated in Somalia 14 months ago. Everyone ran for safety. We fled from the outskirts of Kismayo. The only thing I have to break the fast with is Tea and some Corn Soy Blend porridge (CSB-Nutritional diet usually given to refugee families). 

My children are young and haven’t attained the age for fasting. But they always ask me about Eid.    “Mother, there is a big day ahead of us… what will we do for Eid? Mother, do we have anything special for the day?” They are off course young and they don’t understand finances. They just want to have what their age mates have.

All I tell them though is that I have no money to buy them clothes. My plan for Eid is to stay the whole day in our house with them so that they can avoid the disappointment of seeing others with what they can’t have.

Every time I pray. I beg to God that he uplifts my finances so that I can support my children. I always imagine a day of happiness. I belief a day will come when I will be stable like other parents. I will then offer my children all they may need.  

Ramadan Story 4 
My name is Ibado Abdullah Keinan. I am 20 years old and I am originally from Kismayo Somalia. My parents are deceased. 

I am learning English, Life skills, Mathematics and Salon or beauty class- decorations and hairdressing for women here in Dagahaley’s Youth Educational Program center.  I started these youth classes in February 2013.

I stay with one of my sisters. I usually finish this program at 2pm and then go somewhere else for private English lessons after which I return home at 4.30pm. I go for private English lessons to help me progress at the youth education center.

At home, I sometimes assist my sister in preparing Mandazi, Sambossa and Coffee. My main challenge is that I first stayed with my older sister who didn’t send me to school. She used to make me stay home to take care of her children. 

Other children would go to school while I was at home. I used to see them coming and going but I just had to stay home and watch my sister’s kids. 

I stay with my other sister now and she doesn’t force me to do any work. She allows me to help when I can and she supports my schooling. That is why I chose to join this school even though I am older.  I can’t stay Ignorant because I belief that an ignorant person is worse off than a witch. 

I need to become like others who are educated and have skills. Whenever I pray, I ask Allah to help me with my studies. I ask Allah to bless my knowledge. I say oh Allah bless my Knowledge and give me this Knowledge if it s good for me. If it isn’t good for me, please keep it away from me.  

 Ramadan Story 5 
My name is Batulo Hassan Rage. I am 50 years old. This is my 21st Ramadan in Dadaab. I fled Kismayo Somalia in 1992.

At home I used to drink milk. Ramadan was a big event. There used to be preparations for Eid which always got underway with the commencement of Ramadan. We would sell animals and prepare food for the big day. That is a pipe dream here in the camps.  

The earlier years were harder to adjust to. As time went by, I made myself able to adapt. It was hard though, I never thought I’d be a refugee in another country.  

I came with 16 families. 15 of them have been resettled in other countries. I feel like I have been unlucky. This keeps lingering many questions in my head, questions I’m not able to answer. 

I have not given up though. I am still hoping that things will be better some day. I belief that one day, me and my children will have a Ramadan celebration like I used to have it back in Kismayo. 

                                 Ramadan Story 6 

My name is Osman Omar Aden. I am a 23 years old Somali Refugee living in Dagahaley Camp. I came to this camp in 1991 when I was young and that was the only time I traveled long distance. I have never had a chance to step out of this camp since then. 

In this Ramadan, I am studying and things are calm here. During the last Ramadan, there was a fire in Dagahaley market and all the goods were burnt. Refugees who relied on the market for livelihood lost everything. The small workshops and factories were burnt as well. That was quite a tragedy that totally spoilt the Ramadan moment. 

The economy went down and no one could depend on the other anymore. Everything became expensive.  250g of tomatoes were for example sold at Ksh 50 (Half a dollar). A pair of trousers which usually costs Ksh 700 (about 8 USD) was sold at Ksh 2, 000 (about 23 USD).

I was a teacher in a madrasa before returning to the Youth Education Program center for studies. I chose this because I am still young. I needed to learn more. In the Quran, the prophet says that we need study even if we have to go far distances to do so. I am ready to take up my studies to the fullest even if I have to go all the way to China to achieve that.   

If you are educated, ideally you are like a person living with light in the house. If you are not educated, you live in a house of darkness. I usually encourage people to study whether it is Islamic studies or secular studies. Thanks to Allah I have this opportunity here at the Youth Educational Program center and I appreciate the support from my teachers.

Pictures taken by Brendan Bannon- Photojournalist

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