May 22, 2018
A while ago I introduced you to Nadifa Mahamed, who came to Sioux Falls in 2010 with her family as refugees from Chad, West Africa. Nadifa came with no English but a powerful drive to learn, to learn everything she didn’t have the opportunity to learn back in Africa. She navigated the American school system and graduated from high school. She just finished her sophomore year at University Center, forging a path for herself that is uniquely her own.
Nadifa has grown into a confident young lady who knows what she wants to do in the future. She has been asked several times to share her story, a story that she hopes will inspire other young people to go after their dreams.
Last December the South Dakota Board of Regents was meeting in Sioux Falls and Nadifa was invited to speak to the Board – an event that would have a huge impact on her future as a student. The board members were touched by the fact that she was willing to share her personal story and they visited with her privately after the meeting. The president of a university and a local writer, all wanted to help Nadifa.
One board member in particular took a few more minutes to talk to Nadifa – and gave her the most incredible news: he was going to pay her tuition – every semester from now on until she finished her undergraduate degree! Nadifa couldn’t believe her ears, she was crying, she was smiling, she was shaking, she was so happy! And all this generous man wanted in return was to be kept updated on her courses and grades. No problem there.
Nadifa still works part-time as a food ambassador at Avera and an administrative assistant at LSS-Center for New Americans. But Nadifa feels no more financial pressure. In the fall, she will start her junior year at SDSU at the University Center, majoring in sociology with a minor in human resources.
After graduation, she plans on being involved with non-profit organizations, working with empowering women and girls of color to become strong, independent individuals. Eventually she plans on having her own non-profit whose mission will strive to end arranged marriage and child marriage, issues she feels very strongly about. “If we had stayed in Africa, I know I would be married by now with several children, but we came to America, where I can be free!” Nadifa says.
I am sure we will hear more from Nadifa in the future!
Written by Silke Hansen, LSS English Instructor at the Center for New Americans
May 17, 2018
As you read this blog, Muslims all across the globe are observing Ramadan. But what exactly is Ramadan? And what are they celebrating?
Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Its start date differs by 11 days each year, based on the sighting of the first crescent of the new moon. In Sioux Falls, it started this year on May 16 and will end on June 14, marking exactly 30 days. It is a month of fasting to remember and celebrate the first revelation of the Koran to the prophet Muhammad.
Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. For a Muslim, Ramadan is not a choice but an obligation. The fast lasts from sunrise to sunset, which could be from 10 to 15 hours or longer, depending on the time of year and geographical location. No food or drink can pass their lips during that time. Muslims not only fast with their stomach, but also with their eyes and with their tongue – don’t engage in any negative activities such as lying, gossiping or arguing and don’t inflict any physical or spiritual harm on anybody. This teaches you how to become more aware of your own range of emotions and how to handle them.
Not everyone is obligated to fast. Exemptions include the elderly and very ill, young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers and those who are traveling for more than 3 days. Those who are able to are required to make up the days they missed at a later date. Those who are unable to fast are encouraged to provide food to a homeless person for the duration of the fast. Starting at the age of 6 or 7 children start to practice fasting. First, they might skip a meal, then fast for half a day, gradually increasing the time of fasting until they are able to fast for the entire 30 days once they reach puberty.
Ramadan offers the opportunity to grow closer to God. Believers are strongly encouraged to diligently read the entire Koran. I was told that if you read at least 5 chapters every day, you can accomplish the task. It is a time for self-reflection and self-improvement. Fasting brings out compassion for the less fortunate, for those amongst us who deal with food insecurities on a daily basis.
Muslims pray 5 times every day. During Ramadan, strict prayer times are observed and additional daily prayers are strongly encouraged. The Mosque is a central gathering place for community prayers and fellowship. Many Mosques stay open 24 hours to allow Muslims to spend extended periods of time in prayer and reflection. It is not uncommon for some to spend the night when they don’t have to work the next day.
Each day at sunset, at an exactly given time, Muslims ‘break the fast’ and gather for a meal. Ramadan is also a very social time and often the people around the table include friends and neighbors. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a major Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Fitr. Special prayers and sermons are held at the Mosque and the day ends with a huge feast, oftentimes in a park where the entire community can celebrate together.
Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor, Center for New Americans