In September of 2010, our family moved to Charlotte, NC to volunteer with an inner city youth ministry called One7. It was founded in 2008 and now has kids from Africa, Vietnam, Burma, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States. The One7 vision: To reach and transform inner city communities and families by intentionally forming cross cultural youth ministry teams while focusing on holistic change and spiritual growth. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and we have never regretted the decision to move. One thing we have come to understand is that everyone has a story. All it takes is some time and active participation in someone’s life to develop a personal relationship. Just because a person is smiling on the outside, does not mean they are not ripped apart inside.
Meet Soli. She is from Ethiopia and started attending the One7 Academy this year. She is one of five children living here in the US. Like most refugee families, they escaped their country hoping to make a better life here in America. While on many levels, they do indeed have it much better than in the past, but they still face hunger, pain, and rejection.
Here is her story…
My name is Soli, and I am from Ethiopia. I came to the United States when I was eight years old. I have two sisters and two brothers. We all grew up without a father. When we first came to America, life was very hard because we didn’t know how to speak English. All of us lived in a two bedroom apartment. It was so small and not enough room for us to live. We didn’t have anything in our apartment, not even furniture. My mother had to work to support us and often times left just us kids alone at home. I was the oldest child, but even at such a young age, I was forced to take care of my brothers and sisters.
Life was so difficult at times that my mother tried to make us all drink bathroom cleaners so we would die. She tried to make me drink it first, but when I opened the bottle, I knew it was something that we shouldn’t drink. At one time, my mother lost her food stamps and was it was so hard to get food. My cousins would give us food so we wouldn’t go hungry.
Before we moved to America, it was very hard for my mother to take care of us. We were so poor that she had to carry two of the kids around in a book bag. We lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for several years. Life inside the refugee camp was horrible. So many people died. There was no hope, only pain and devastation. I didn’t think we were ever going to make it out alive. School was also very hard. I didn’t like it at all, but my mom would beat me if I didn’t go. If we were late to class, the teacher would make us get on our knees and hold up heavy rocks for several minutes. There would also hit us with rulers. Some kids were beaten so severely that they died right there in the classroom.
Sometimes, we wouldn’t leave the house because we were afraid that people were going to try and kill us. They would also do witchcraft and put curses on us. One time when my mom was pregnant, someone put a curse on her, and she lost the baby.
My mother dropped out of school when she was in fifth grade and still doesn’t know how to speak English very well. I have to try and translate for her when we read the mail. It’s very hard for me. She pushed me so hard to get my schoolwork done because she doesn’t want me to drop out like she did.
Recently, my mom got really sick and the doctor didn’t know what was wrong with her. She was becoming very stressed which caused me to lose focus on my schoolwork. She went back to the doctors many times before they finally realized she was five months pregnant. My brother was facing the wrong way inside, and they were unable to turn him. Because of that, my mom had to have a C section. My new brother has a heart murmur, and my mom wanted to sell him because he didn’t come out perfect.
Life is better now, but still so hard. This is my first year at the One7 Academy and I am doing well. I look back and remember how much worse life was in the refugee camp, and I thank God for allowing us to live in America.
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Have a blessed day,