WCCDA Narrative Series | Four
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I live in White Center! I moved here in September 27, 2013 to Seola Garden. Before I lived in Highpoint in West Seattle. After a couple of months, I met someone at Seola Garden that was facilitating Play and Learn for children and parents, so I joined. I attended every Friday with my two kids. My kids and I really enjoyed the time we had there. From there, I have been involved with the CDA in many different activities and got the opportunity to learn more about the community and the many different cultures in the White Center community. I was born in Somalia. I came to the U.S. as a refugees in March of 2004. I was 17 years old. I came by myself with distant relatives. I came here to Atlanta Georgia because I had distant relatives there. When I came to the US, I dreamt of going to school and becoming a nurse.
When I went to school, I didn't know anyone and didn’t understand anything. When I was in Somalia, I never attended school before. So I failed the tests and stopped going to school. I only went once. If I had continued, I would've understood -- but I only went once. My family didn't care and didn't push me to go back to school. So I went and got a job instead. I went to look for a job at Macy; I didn't interview, they couldn't understand. If I had known how important it was to get an education, I would have never left school. I went to ESL class, other students were telling me to go back to high school since I was young. I left and moved to another place where there's a lot of Somali and asked other people to sign her up for high school. But no one was able to help me so I ended up signing up to ESL classes again.
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During that time, I went through many challenges and cried a lot. Then, my cousin encouraged me to do something and moved me to Nashville, TN. I went to a job agency, but I couldn't fill out the application since I didn't know how to read and write. So I wasn't able to find work there. I met a Somali lady who was willing to help me find a place to live and find a job. The lady's husband work at the Dell's warehouse that was an hour away. I went with them and they helped me get a job there. It started at 5 a.m. and ended 5 p.m., four days a week, and the drive was far. I worked there for three months in the assembly line, it was really hard physically and the distance was so far. I asked to transfer to Downtown Nashville to be closer to where I lived. I was on a waiting list. But then I found new job working with CDs, and there were a lot of Hispanics working there. Getting transportation to work was challenging.
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There was a Black man that helped me. One day, I didn't show up for work and I was fired the next day when I came back. I went back to work for Dell, and after a few months, I was laid off. The rule they have is that you work for six months, you get laid off, then you can come back after a few months. When I was laid off, I left and moved back to Atlanta for a few months. Then, I visited my sister in Canada for a couple of months.
I moved to Portland for a year and found a job there after one week and became a housekeeper at a hotel. That was June in 2006. After that, I worked at Nike for a short time. In 2007, went back to Toronto because my sister had a tumor and had surgery. I stayed there to take care of her and being with her for nine months. When I was doing the citizenship interview, they asked why I stayed so long in Canada. I told them because I wanted to be with my family. Currently, I have another sister in London, and in Africa, I have my mom, two brothers, and one sister.
My family is still pretty separated and I miss being with them. This year I'm going to go home to see my mom and family in Ethiopia. It's been many years. I moved to Seattle in 2007 after coming back from Canada. In 2008, I got a job as a custodian in Downtown Seattle. Since I don't have an education, I cannot read or write, all I can do was to pick up trash and clean at the offices in different buildings.
I didn't know how to do anything else. That job started at 5 p.m. and I would leave at 1:30 a.m., taking the bus at 2 a.m. to go home for two years. Some nights it was really scary running in people and situations that were unsafe on the streets. I had shared housing with other people, four men live in one area of the house and two women in one room. I would coming home at 3:20 p.m, and in the morning, there would be noises so I couldn't sleep more. I had lost a lot of sleep and arguments with roommates during that time. In 2009, I decided to leave my job so I can go to school, enrolled in a 2-year program with completing the high school diploma first. I was given financial aid, a place to stay near Portland on an island, etc.
I decided to study office technology, which was very challenging for me. During the first Summer break, I got married to my husband whom I had met in 2008 in Seattle. I still went back to the school after getting married, but then I left in October. To this day, I'm still not sure why I made that decision.
Maybe one of the reasons I wanted to get married is to have a place of my own. Her husband could have joined her in the program but he wanted to go and get a job instead. Now thinking back, two of my biggest regrets is not continuing with high school and quitting this program.
It was a really good place and now I think about how great it could have been if I had stayed.
They gave us opportunity to learn new things and we had a lot of fun. We had trips to the surrounding areas. I moved back to Seattle in October and at that time, my counselor called me to ask why I left. They really cared. I got pregnant and had my first kid in 2011. On August 25th, 2011 I did my citizenship test, and two days later was the due date for my first child. That year, I also went back to ESL at South Seattle College and had practiced for a month for the citizenship test. I was very happy that I was able to pass the test! My second child was born in 2013. My third was born in 2015. Now all three kids are in school. One boy and two girls, youngest is seven and in first grade. I want to another boy, just in case. I want to help our community. White Center and the CDA is a good community I want to support people here.
Now I see a lot more Somali women getting an education in Somali and in America. I'm very happy about this. But some are like me who has very little and some who don't know how to read and write at all. I hope that will change.
I have no free time, because I'm always taking care of my kids. I want my kids to have a good education so they can have the things they want. Before getting married and having kids, they should have a good education. Having tea together with friends makes me happy and that's how when I can enjoy myself. But mostly I can't have time to enjoy those things.
Typically, I wake up 6 a.m., get breakfast ready, take kids to bus, go to ESL class (four days 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.), clean home, make food and get ready for the kids to be home. Every day and everything goes by fast, so I don't have time to anything. Sometime I listen to stories in Somali from YouTube while doing things. I enjoying hearing about real life stories of people and stories related to education.
"Everything you say you can, you can do it!" I tell my kids that a lot. "Keep doing it." I want to share my experience and my story to help people understand the importance of an education. If you go to the office or anywhere, they ask you to read and sign things, but if I have no idea what you are signing. How can I do those things? I don't want that to happen to me, my kids, or any other person.
I love the White Center community. People are kind and supportive of each other, and I feel safe walking around my neighborhood and community. I joined the Parent Ambassador program for a year at Educare in Greenbridge, maybe in 2017. It was really good! I was shy during that time so I didn't communicate with a lot of people. But I learned a lot. We had a person in the community who translated everything for us.
In 2018, we went to Olympia with some of White Center CDA staff and others. It felt really good to fight for women's right and children's right! It was a very memorable experience for me and I got more connected to the community. I continue to join meetings to better understand the different cultures in White Center and share our experience to support our community.
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I feel like White Center is home now and I want to stay here. When my kids grow up, we will need to move to a bigger place, but I would like to stay in White Center long-term. People say White Center was not a good place before, but in my experience now, I think it's a good community. I hope White Center can continue to keep doing what it's doing. I want to continue to make White Center a safe place for my children and everyone's children to grow up and be successful.
I want to see my kids safe and celebrate them finishing high school. I would like for them to go to college and experience life in college. I would like to celebrate their graduation from college; that will be another happy day for me. I want to encourage parents to get involved, volunteer, and get to know the teachers so they can be support their kid's education.
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