In the summer of 2012, my childhood friend Ayaanle and I were exploring our dusty and blazing hot Ethiopian refugee camp when suddenly, we heard gunshots.
I knew because I had heard it before. Then, in front of us, people came out of their houses and started running.
“Let us go see what is happening and what people are running to,” Ayaanle said.
Our slim 11-year-old bodies moved in the same direction— toward the gunfire. One more gunshot rang out, this time closer than before. I looked over to my friend. He was no longer next to me. My eyes found him on the green grass below, his head exploded. I wasn’t able to move. I couldn’t help. I was just a boy and I felt hopeless.
My family is Somali, and I was born in an Ethiopian refugee camp. Growing up in the camp was about survival, and there was not enough food and water. Violence was common. Education was terrible.
Starting in 2008, every day one of my family members would walk by the United Nations poster and check to see if our names were on the list to go to the United States. Still, I didn’t know what my life would be like after five or ten years. Growing up, I felt hopeless.
Then one day, after Ayaanle’s death, I was playing soccer. My sister came to me screaming, “Waan ku jirna liiska,” which means, “We are on the list.”
In September 2012, we moved to the United States. I was so happy and excited. Tears were rolling down from my eyes.
I had to leave my life in the refugee camp and everything that I went through behind. I had conversations with my family about what happened in the camp. Things they told me helped me become a stronger and better person. They made me feel I could do everything and I can overcome whatever I face. I kept moving forward when I faced so many challenges in the camp, so I always remind myself I can overcome challenges again and nothing is impossible. Nothing is harder than living in the camp. I am a better person because my thoughts are always clear. Whatever goals I set, I know I will achieve them.
I am determined to go to college and succeed. I want to do good in English, science and math in college. I want to have the ability to find a job where I can help people and the community, and provide a good life for my family. I want my kids to have a better life than I did. I want them to grow up having goals and hope. I want my kids to be able to do whatever they want and go to college and have a bright future. I have the desire to do whatever it takes to make my dreams reality.
Moving to the United States opened a lot of doors. It gives me hope that I can do something with my life. I am a lot stronger than I thought. I have made a lot of progress in just a few years. I will live my dreams. I can do anything and overcome whatever I face. I am full of hope.