This blog was written by Abdalhamid Ali, a participant in the 2016 LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy. Here is his story:
My name is Abdalhamid Musa Abdalla Ali. I was born in a small village near the town of Zalingei, which is located in the central Darfur state of Sudan. I grew up moving between my mother’s village and my father’s village, where I attended school starting at age seven; this was in 1988. I was the first person to go to school in my family and the third in my village.
My village was destroyed in the same year when a war started between my tribe, the Furs, and other tribes in Darfur. Thousands were displaced as a result. People lost family members, their homes, and almost all of their possessions.
A few years later, my family was able to return to our village, but the violence was still present and this was a chapter of suffering in my life. During this time I was out of school for several years, but I was eventually able to return and continue my education until I graduated from the University of Khartoum with a diploma in accounting. I then joined the Sudan Radio Service in Kenya covering human rights violations against civilians in Darfur. My involvement with the Sudan Radio Service profoundly changed my life. As a journalist, the horrors that I witnessed firsthand in Darfur turned me into a human rights defender.
The Cost of Seeking Refuge
In 2013, I arrived in the United States to attend a conference organized by Darfuris living in the United States. Because of the continued violence in Sudan and the danger I was in as a journalist who spoke out against human rights violations, I decided to stay in the United States for my own safety and submitted an asylum application. This was the most difficult decision I have ever made, because it meant I would be away from my family for a long time. I am married and the father of a son who currently lives in Sudan with his mother. I don’t know when I will see them again.
Since I arrived in the United States, I have felt safe. This is the best thing that has happened in my life. At first I faced many challenges in the U.S., but thanks to the welcome I received in Baltimore, my life has become easier. After processing my asylum application, I received an employment authorization card and have become financially self-sufficient.
Rebuilding Hope in America
Outside of work, I volunteer with a Darfuri community association that provides services to refugees such as education, integration, employment, shopping, and healthcare. My dream is to continue my education and attend graduate school to study international relations. Through my volunteer work and studies I still work to support those affected by violence, to speak out against human rights abuses, and to see the humanity in each and every person.
I am so proud to be among Americans, who are very nice, considerate, and kind people. I am grateful to the American people and government for their support for refugees who lost hope in their countries and have found hope in America.
My Advice to Americans
My advice to Americans who want to help is that they should continue supporting refugees who are in the United States. Refugees come to the U.S. with many skills; some of us are physicians, some are engineers, some are accountants, and the list goes on! When you assist refugees, you also enable them to contribute to their new U.S. communities.
The LIRS Academy
I attended the Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy in 2015 in order to engage with fellow leaders who come from different parts of the world and with different backgrounds. I believe we can help each other develop our capacities as leaders.
The skills I gained at the Academy have allowed me to take on new leadership roles in my community. In November 2015, I was elected President of Fur Solidarity USA, which is an organization that provides social services to refugees and promotes social peace in Darfur. I am excited to return to the Academy this year and I hope to gain new knowledge and leadership skills that will enable me help Darfuri and other refugees in America.