Easing into Life’s Unexpected Turns

“Education is important. If you have no education, you have no eyes. With an education, things are possible. If none, you can do nothing!”

Ahmed loves soccer. For much of his early life, he played competitively and dreamed of someday coaching his own team. But life took an unexpected turn. In 1991, when civil war escalated with the fall of Somalia’s dictator, Ahmed sought safety in Kenya. It was here that he met his future wife – an entrepreneurial woman who felt they needed more money than coaching could offer.

Together, Ahmed and his wife opened a business butchering goats. “It was her idea, and she helped a lot. We really benefitted [from the business].” So instead of being known as a soccer star, he became a famous butcher! Ahmed recalls his customers crying when the news came that he would be moving to the United States.

After 16 years in Kenya, Ahmed arrived in Minnesota with his wife and two sons in January, 2014. In his pre-departure orientation, he was told that there would be many things that would surprise him about his new home: a new language, different religions, and winter. They told him during the first year, many people want to return to Africa. However, they said that if he waits, he will meet other Somalis and want to stay.

The winter that Ahmed and his family arrived in Minneapolis was one of the coldest on record. They all wanted to get back on the plane! As promised, however, other Somali immigrants convinced him that after surviving one winter, he wouldn’t want to go back. They were right. “Now my kids are learning at school. I am in school. I am working, and my wife is working. I feel good. I don’t want to leave.”

Ahmed learned some basic English when he was in high school in Somalia but really started practicing and learning the language in Kenya. Because of this exposure, he started at the English Learning Center in an advanced intermediate class and currently studies at the highest possible level. He has also taken computer and math classes. He says, “Education is important. If you have no education, you have no eyes. With an education, things are possible. If none, you can do nothing!”

In addition to school, Ahmed has been pursuing stable employment. Two months ago, he started a job in the furniture department at Savers. He is excited to have finally found a good fit with a convenient schedule and location, which allow him to spend time with his family. When he is not at school or work, he enjoys teaching his three children about the Quran. He also hasn’t entirely forgotten about his early soccer days; on weekends, they all play soccer if the weather is nice.

As for his hopes and goals, Ahmed first explains that many Muslims don’t talk about the future because only Allah knows what the future holds. However, if Allah accepts it, he hopes that all his kids will graduate university, he will be fluent in English, and he and his wife will start a new business. Ahmed enjoys reflecting on the business he had in Kenya and misses it. He believes he could have the same success here someday.