Neil Craigan Photography | Portrait of an Immigrant: Sahro

Portrait of an Immigrant: Sahro

October 27, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Sahro is a Somali immigrant. Sahro grew up in Mogadishu where her father worked in the import/export industry and her mother was a supervisor in an Italian owned factory. As a child Sahro watched as her father was arrested for his political activism. Following his release she witnessed the taunting he received from the authorities.

In 1991, civil war broke out in Somalia. As inquisitive young people, Sahro and her friends had to see for themselves the damage caused by the fighting. Sahro recounts the sound and sight of the bombs falling on the city as being eerily similar to the images we see on TV from Syria today.  It was a devastating time, “most of my family never survived the war.”

In 1992, Sahro and some family members abandoned their home in Mogadishu and went to a refugee camp outside of Nairobi, Kenya. They were displaced people with nowhere to call home. A year later, Sahro, along with her mother, and some of her siblings and cousins were, “very lucky to get sponsored.” So in November, 1993 they arrived in St. Louis under refugee status. It was the beginning of a new life, in a new culture. Tragically Sahro’s father wasn’t part of the group and within a year he died from a brain tumor.

Upon arrival in the United States Sahro had three goals, “get a job, go to school and help people back home.” Sahro accomplished this and more. In 1995 Sahro was married and has five children. Her oldest son is in college studying and playing football for a division two school while her youngest attends a local elementary school. Tending to the needs of her family Sahro also began to pursue studies in nursing but shifted her focus and graduated college with a degree in business and accounting.

Sahro’s career and life are devoted to advocacy. When working as a security guard she was the person to walk other women to their vehicles, ensuring their safety. After moving to Minnesota Sahro took a job in community outreach, teaching workshops on medical and mental health issues for the Somali and African American community. Today she continues her advocacy work in the local school district where she serves as the Somali Cultural Liaison in a school that is approximately one third Somali, one third hispanic and one third caucasian.

“It’s challenging,” Sahro explains when talking about what it’s like to live as a Muslim woman in America. “Before 9/11 we didn’t see it as a problem. … After 9/11 we were the outsiders.” As a citizen of the United States she experienced a lot of name calling, even being called a “terrorist” in front of her young children, “just because I wear a headscarf.” She would note that this is “exactly what ISIS wants.” Before adding, “I don’t think ISIS knows the religion!”

Sahro is a strong, courageous, advocate for herself and others. She wants us to understand that “we’re all the same, same wants, same needs. … We want our kids to go to college, graduate, be successful, find the right way. We want our kids to be safe and not hang with the wrong people.”


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