Today we continue Mohamud’s journey from Somalia to the United States, picking up the story when he and his family were resettled to Virginia. Part I of his story can be reached my clicking here.
In 1996, Mohamud’s family was resettled to Virginia in the United States. As an eleven-year-old and the only member of his family to speak English, Mohamud was excited about this move.
Mohamud shared some funny stories of cultural adjustment upon arrival. “When we reached the JFK airport I saw a ‘restroom’ sign and informed my mother that this must be where we rest. You see, I spoke British English, where a ‘restroom’ was called a ‘loo’ or ‘toilet.’ Until I graduated high school in 2002, I spoke English with a British accent.” Another story occurred during his family’s health screening. “We were in the tallest building and I was enjoying riding the elevator.” At some point he got a bit turned around in the building and started asking people “Where is the lift?”
People did not understand what I was asking and only answered me with ‘Find your parents. Where are your parents?’ After asking several people I eventually asked one man, telling him not to tell me ‘to find my parents.’ He said ‘You must be new here’ and showed me to the elevator…My mom yelled at me for messing around.
Mohamud’s family moved to Prince William County, Virigina where he started in grade four. “I started in grade four and that summer was with the fifth grade class. The next year I spent one semester in grade six and after break, I was placed in the next grade.” His family supported themselves through a janitorial business, and Mohamud worked alongside his family cleaning after school and late into the night.
His family eventually moved to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Here he experienced culture shock again because up until now, Mohamud’s neighbors and classmates had mostly been Pakastani and Indian. “My second day in Minnesota, a man asked me ‘How old is you?’ I didn’t understand…I didn’t speak Ebonics…I had never worn baggy clothes…I carried my school books in a suitcase.” After putting himself through college while working two to three jobs, Mohamud started working for the St. Paul police department having studied law enforcement. For five years he worked as a community liaison officer on disputes between neighbors and interpreting. Eventually he was investigating and reporting on all Somali cases in St. Paul. He was the first Somali in this position. “I learned to read and write the Somali language in the U.S. I taught myself.” In this position he faced prejudices and discrimination similar to his father.
In 2011, Mohamud moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he originally wanted to start a restaurant, but after talking with people in the area, he felt there was more need for home health care, and so in November 2011, Mohamud founded Alpha Sigma Health Group, Inc. “We provide waiver services, personal home health aids, companionship, and nursing. In third world countries, we may have different religions, but we have similar values. Parents have raised us so now we take care of them. We give them the rest they need.” Along with running Alpha Sigma, Mohamud helps coach a Nepali soccer team in town and volunteers as a police officer in Minnehaha County.
As our conversation was ending, I asked Mohamud what the Sioux Falls community should know about Somali refugees. “We are human; we have a unique story to tell. We are hard-working and have persevered…persevered through refugee camps and much trauma.”
Thank you, Mohamud, for sharing your incredible story with us and for providing your home health care service to our community.