Like everyone who has met him, or knows Imran Mohammed’s story,- Rohingya refugee, who suffered for five years in detention on Manus Island after fleeing his homeland, Myanmar, separated from his scattered family, we wish him safety, joy and fulfilment on this new journey in his life.
While Australia rejected and punished him for seeking safety and freedom, the USA has gained a talented, gentle and dedicated new citizen. Their gain. Our loss.
I keep in touch with Imran, and I know a lot of you follow his fortunes. Here’s an update. If anyone would like to make a donation to Imran’s meagre bank account while he dedicates himself to his studies. Let me know and I will send you his bank details.
I was welcomed to a world I only thought possible in my dreams, in June last year. I didn’t know anything about this part of the world or that Chicago, Illinois, USA, even existed.
I’ve been amazed to learn how people pursue their goals and how they see themselves in the future. Nothing is easy, and nothing happens overnight but the incredible part of this nation is that it seems anything can be achieved over time, with patience. However there are obstacles, and to overcome them can be overwhelming, especially for new immigrants. Like me.
I came to this country with English which I speak, write and read. I just can’t imagine not being able to speak the language as it would close every door of opportunity for me. I would struggle every morning when I opened my eyes until I went to bed at night.
I see hundreds of refugees and immigrants who are bilingual, yet they seem speech-impaired at times as they communicate more by their body language.
I know the feeling of not being able to say what I wanted to say verbally when I was detained in Australia’s offshore detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and in Indonesia’s refugee camp.
I felt so hopeless, vulnerable and completely voiceless.
I am sure those who come here without being able to speak English, feel powerless and never find confidence to seek something better in their lives. It is a massive adjustment because your whole life is upside down. You are reborn the day you come to a new country, as everything is done differently. Innovation is just wonderful, if you are born into it. It can be a lifetime of confusion, if you are not exposed to it when you are growing up.
Everything is done via internet. At home we would pay with cash and get change in cash, here people carry debit or credit cards which allows them to pay for anything, so there is no necessity to actually touch money and I sometimes think that the real value of money is lost.
Despite all of the hurdles and confusion, refugees find ways to improve their lives in order to lay down the foundation of their own family in this nation.
I have been here for nearly eight months and there has not been a day I wasn’t fascinated with something. I never get to understand the fact that there are signs which say you are not allowed to feed pigeons, and people love their dogs like their children. The reverse would have been the true at home.
Sometimes my American friends tell me that they are taking their dogs to the doctors; whereas, I saw people die because they weren’t able to get any medical attention. I didn’t even know people could study to become a vet.
The roads are overrun with cars, and it seemed people pay a machine in order to park their cars. It just didn’t make sense at the beginning.
I used to take classes two evenings a week after work, but now I study every morning at Truman College. There are not many students in my class; however, everyone looks so different and there are such a variety of languages spoken on phones during the break between classes.
There are students from so many different countries at Truman. I have heard names of countries I had no idea about, or where they were on the map. I hope to gain my high school diploma as quickly as possible, like everyone else. Everyone is on a mission to finish their education.
I pinch myself from time to time because I can’t believe that I am really doing all of these things. It hasn’t been easy without any family; however, the greatest gift of my whole life is I finally have a country in which to be free and I have found a home after seven years of imprisonment in many detention centres.
I have kept myself extremely busy so that I can move on to create the life I have dreamed about. I have made choices in order to learn, grow, experience and go to places where I am completely outside my comfort zone.
I know people probably don’t want to see it, but their love, support and kindness makes me feel welcomed. There is hope and I can see my future. It is a long road, but I will build the life I have dreamed of and accomplish my goals through hard work.
My 2019 wish is to see all my brothers and sisters who are still held on Manus and Nauru, free in a safe country.
I will be forever grateful to the Australian people who fought for our freedom, and who are still fighting. I know I will cherish this new life, as I have been blessed to have met many incredible people in Chicago. I grew up in a place where dreams are constantly snatched away, but the kindness and support shown by the people here has given me hope of a future.
Green city is carpeted with snow.
Cold gets in my bones and
Runs throughout my body.
Makes my body dance helplessly
Coldness leaves discomfort.
Trees lost their leaves
But their heart is breathing.
Snow falling gives me joy.
It’s a dream world with beauty.
I travel through it.