In the midst of civil war, mass murders, and famine, families all over the world are forced to leave their homeland every day. Abdulkadir and Mnoza Muya are put into this reality. We know that refugees come onto American soil all the time, but it's not all happiness and joy once they get here. This is the story of the Muya family striving to find normality in refuge.
The Muya family arrived to the United States in September of 2016. After 12 years of living with 350,000 other Somalian refugees in Kenya, the Muya's gained refugee status in America. They brought one outfit per person and a small bag full of valuables.
Alice Bolanos and Mnoza pack seven bags full of clothes for the family of eight. The family hasn't experienced a cold winter in over a decade. Finding the clothes to survive through it is crucial.
Mnoza was raised a farmer. She didn't go to school growing up in Somalia and, consequently, never learned the alphabet. Eugenia Wittick has weekly lessons with Mnoza to teach her the basics. Here she is learning the alphabet while breastfeeding her youngest child, Muhammad (also called Mudi).
Abdulkadir was raised in school. He knows some Italian and Arabic, but now has to learn English in order to get a job and survive in America.
The Muya family of eight spends their days packed inside their three bedroom apartment. The first months of settling were relatively easy for the family. They were excited to be out of tents and in a house. "We're comfortable, but miss home. I didn't want to leave my home, my food, my friends, but we had to leave for my family," said Abdulkadir.
Abdulkadir waits for the bus with trash bags full of clothing for the family. Figuring out the bus schedule is an ongoing problem as he spends up to an hour trying to get a ride. He'll wait for over an hour and nothing will show up. "No bus. There is no bus. How do I work with no bus?" said Abdulkadir.
The Muya family starts to feel the weight of their situation. They have no idea when they'll be able to go home, to see their family again, to feel at peace.
Marcia Elliot, Alice Bolanos, and Felix Otieno translate paperwork to Abdulkadir and Omar. Omar and Abdulkadir will have to work to provide for their family. Being hired without proficient English is a difficult process, and the family needs income.
Abdulkadir has a daughter who lives in Minnesota. He calls her to figure out how to work, but unfortunately she doesn't have a lot of advice. Omar, Abdulkadir's oldest son, may have to move to Minnesota to work and provide for the family.
Parent-teacher day at Forest View Elementary School is interesting when the parents and teachers don't speak the same language. Celeste and Felix Otieno joined the Muya's to help translate for them. Asimani, their second youngest son, has been struggling to obey rules in the classroom. The transition has been tough for him.
Fartune, Asimani, and Ali get dropped off from school. They haven't found anybody who speaks Swahili, so making friends has been difficult.
The family rarely uses tables. After eating on the ground in Kenya for 12 years, they still prefer the floor.
Omar and Hemadi need transportation and can't get a car. They started working in a Durham Bicycle Co-Op to work for a their bicycle. After two months, they will both have a way to get around.
The Muya family can't live off welfare for long. They get cut off from most aid in December, unless they find income. Fartune holds tightly to a family portrait, with a painting brought over from Kenya in the background. Just because they're out of a hostile country, doesn't mean they're out of fear for the future. Many mysteries still exist, but more than anything, the family is wondering when they'll be able to go home.