Holding a star-spangled teddy bear that he'd just been given, two-year-old Ishmael Mugoya (Is-MA-el Mu-go-ya) squealed with delight. His father, Jele Mohando (JE-lei Mo-HAN-do), laughed, a gleam in his tired eyes. They, along with Mugoya's mother, Mugenei (Mu-GE-neh), and his sister and brother, had just landed in the United States at Denver Airport. They had come all the way from Kenya. They were among the first Somali Bantu (banh-to) refugees to come to this country. They had made a very long journey.
Photo: T. Abraham/CWS
Mugoya's people, the Bantu, had lived very hard lives for many, many years. Sometimes they were slaves. When they were not, they were still outcasts. The Bantu began to flee Somalia after a civil war broke out in 1991. Some walked hundreds of miles to seek safety. When they left, Mugoya's parents went to a refugee camp in Kenya. Mugoya was born there. With no country to call their own and no hope of making Kenya their home, they and other Somali Bantu got permission to come to the United States.
The Mohando family was very tired after their long trip from Africa, but they were happy, too. They were in a new home. Thanks to Church World Service partner Ecumenical Refugee Services and a church in Denver, they will be helped with settling in, learning English, as well as finding jobs, schools, and health care. Jele was eager to get started. On the day of his arrival he said, "At the shop where we stopped, I saw corn. Outside there was a tractor. When I was 15, I used to work on a farm. I've driven a tractor in Kenya. All this is familiar to me. I can do this here also." Mugoya and his family have walked a long and difficult road, but they have now found a new home and new hope.