How a Refugee’s Difficult Past Provides Strength

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Falastin Hassan knows the power of good storytelling for leaders and advocates. She was a 2015 Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy participant and plans to bring her newfound leadership skills back to her community. In her story Falastin shows us how past experiences can serve as a guide for future leadership and advocacy endeavors.

Falastin’s passion to serve and advocate for migrants and refugees comes from a former life, she says. The tragic experiences from her past drive her future and her dedication to help refugees who continue to experience suffering and denial of basic rights.

Falastin and other refugee leaders present at the LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy.
Falastin (in red) and other refugee leaders present at the 2015 LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy.

The opportunities at the Academy helped Falastin realize the power of her story as she shared it with fellow participants and even with Senators and Members of Congress. In this, she learned that one of her greatest strengths is her ability to affect change through the sharing of personal experience.

My advocacy for refugees comes from my former life. I was born in Somalia before the civil war broke down my family. We lived a stable life in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.

I was two years old when we fled the country. At that time, I was so little that I didn’t know what was going on. We arrived in Kenya after a long trip from Mogadishu. In Kenya we didn’t know anybody, so we ended up in one of the first refugee camps.

I had never imagined what life in the refugee camp would look like. We lived in a very tiny house in the camp and we didn’t have any supplies. I remember the refugee camps being very crowded. One morning a big car showed up and everybody started running after it. After a while I saw some people coming back with food and supplies and I remember them yelling, “the UN is here the UN is here.”

After that we lived in different refugee camps for 20 years. Even though that part of my life was the most difficult part, it opened my eyes to give back and advocate for refugees and migrants.

I see life in the eyes of refugees and migrants nowadays. I went to school and graduated with a Global Studies degree and I am planning to go to graduate school soon to get a master’s degree in International Relations and hopefully work for the United Nations someday. In the mean time, I work as a refugee services specialist for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN), where I help refugees resettle and integrate into their new communities.

Small group discussion
A small group of refugee leaders discuss advocacy strategies.

At the Academy, participants were encouraged to realize their strength in unity and mobilize around common goals. This experience is extremely powerful for many Academy participants and contributes to their drive to develop their own leadership initiatives once they return to their own communities.

The highlight of my Academy experience was that I met people with similar interests and backgrounds. Everyone was so passionate about the rights of migrants and refugees. I have never had that kind of experience before so I am very thankful to LIRS and my fellow academy participants.

The Academy has helped me grow as a leader a lot. I have gained a lot of experience from my peers who attended the Academy and the wonderful LIRS members who worked tirelessly to make this experience possible. I am using that experience in my community now and engaging in more advocacy activities for refugees and migrants in Minnesota.

Please share Falastin’s story by tweeting or emailing the link:

There’s something special about migrants & refugees advocating together: http://bit.ly/1OTvAHl @LIRSorg #teamwork

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