What a pleasant development it was to be offered the opportunity to talk with Khadra and to learn about how she made her way from her home of Somalia to Ann Arbor and International Neighbors. Behind her gentle smile and conservative dress stands a woman of strong character and determination. Her goal is – to support family and community and to share her vision of Somali women as the backbone of family, community, and country. Forced to leave her home in Mogadishu with the start of the Somali Civil War in 1991, Khadra was able to relocate to her native province in the Southwest of Somalia for several years. Eventually after facing a daily life of danger and hardship, Khadra and her sister decided to seek asylum in the United States. They came initially to Columbus, Ohio, in 1998, bringing Khadra’s sister’s child as well. In 2002 an opportunity came for the family to relocate to Ann Arbor where they have established a comfortable home in a friendly, welcoming environment.
Khadra was eager to tell me some exciting news that, with other family members, she has established a school for girls in her hometown. Located on property owned by her mother, the school already has an enrollment of 40 students with morning and afternoon sessions for 20 girls apiece. What an impressive accomplishment! Khadra values education as a key part of any woman’s success. She characterized Somali women as independent, hard working, and always supportive of one another. She described the practice of “ayuuto” whereby women pool their money to help one of their group make a financial investment, often to start a small business. Khadra’s focus is always on how she can help her family, her community, and her country.
Khadra’s birth was a great source of happiness to her parents, which inspired her mother to give her the name of the Somali word for green, signaling joy and optimism. You may remember seeing her at our elegant tea parties where in recent years she has had a beautiful Somali table with delicious native treats. I hope you will get to meet her soon at one of our upcoming IN Days. Thank you, Khadra, for allowing me to share your story.