Students in Mr. Luke Leatherman’s 9th grade English I College Prep class had the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of the refugee experience of two sisters from the Congo, Zainab and Nyame Danso. Zainab and Nyame, accompanied by their African Alliance case worker, Dahlia Guajardo, discussed their life in the war-torn Congo before their escape seven years ago on foot to the Ugandan border, and their eventual migration to the U.S in June of this year. They talked about their resettlement from the Congo to the US, the difficulties of the refugee process and cultural differences between the US and Congo.

The sisters spoke as a part of an English 1 unit based on the students’ summer reading ‘Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard’ by Mawi Asgedom. In this unit, freshman English students analyzed the autobiographical story of Mawi, a refugee from Ethiopia/Eritrea, and created a short research project on aid organizations and their impact in the world.

SFC students asked thoughtful questions about the pair’s experiences. The women shared candidly about life in the Congo—they faced violence and hardship. They emphasized the importance of schooling and compared the rigor and discipline in the Congo with the freedom they have observed in the US school system.

The women are very grateful to be in the US and greatly appreciate the efforts of all the organizations that have assisted them along the way, including the Alliance for African Assistance. Fun fact—they don’t like fast food, but do enjoy the variety of international foods available, and were happily surprised to find African food here in San Diego.

After reflecting on the talk, SFC students expressed gratitude for the realities of their lives here in the US. SFC students look forward to future connections with Zainab and Nyame, who were pleased to be able to share their experiences with the class.

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