While I was cleaning the living room at the age of 10 years old in South Africa, my sister, Halima, ran up to me and said, “Brother, brother, brother! Our brother is in danger!”
“What happened?” I said. “Where is Abdisamad?”
“He is getting bullied by some gang teenagers who are trying to take his money,” she said.
I drop my broom and run fast, like Usain Bolt in the 100-meter relay, knocking the teenagers as if they were the finish line. Seeing my brother getting bullied by a teenager made me furious. I started to punch the kid in the face.
The teenager took a sharp pocket knife and tried to stab my little brother, but I jumped in the way, putting my hand in front of the knife. It started to bleed out, but it wasn’t as painful as seeing my brother scared and crying. I kicked his legs and his face slammed on the floor. That’s when I picked up my brother and ran for safety.
This was just one way that I had to step up and help raise my six siblings with my older brother because my parents were busy working. This experience taught me patience, problem-solving and how to be organized.
After I arrived home, my hand had been covered with blood, dripping on the ground. I could no longer feel it. I commanded my brothers and sisters to immediately come to me.
“No one can leave without me or Abdirahman,” I said. “Without you guys, I can’t feel happy. It will feel like I have a gap in my heart. You’re the only people I have left as a family. I do not want to see you suffer. I am like your shield, protector and defense!”
The eight of us formed a circle and hugged each other. Since 2008, I was a leader of a big family with my older brother.
I was born in South Africa and raised in Cape Town City. In 2008, my mom had a baby and had to stop working. My dad was working far away from home. He couldn’t come home. My older brother was feeling depressed and hopeless, thinking he wasn’t doing anything for our parents.
As the second elder of the family, I knew I had to do something to make him cheerful.
“Don’t think of yourself as a wasted person. You’re a gift from God. We are lucky to have a big family that wants to be together. We are a chain that can never break as long we stick together,” I told my brother.
That day he and I started to pitch in to take some responsibilities off our parents until we moved shortly before Nelson Mandela passed away. When we came to the United States on June 29, 2012, my parents had more time with the family, but my brother and I still had big responsibilities.
There were times the kids got upset and angry. I told them to take it out on me to help them relieve their stress. I also did laundry, kept the house clean and organized my siblings’ school uniforms. My older brother cooked.
Being a leader in my family has helped me lead in education and pursue my future dream. I want to be a computer engineer, and I signed up for Genesys Works. It helps students like me work at Fortune 500 companies such as 3M, Ameriprise Financial and Google.
In order to be good as a leader, I have to be a good communicator. I have showed this to my family. Through those experiences, the scar I have on my right hand gives me strength and is a symbol of a family bond. I got the scar for protecting a family member that I love. When life is rough I will always have my family with me. When I look at the scar, it motivates me to lead the family when a parent is not at home.