The book is called, “Journey to America: Narrative Short Stories Volume 5.” It was written by students in Leah Juelke’s English Learners class at Fargo South High School. The students are refugees, and to hear them tell their stories or to read the book is a moving experience. Many of them tell horror stories of life in their former countries.
“In Africa, you go to sleep in fear and hope that morning will come, so you get to live another day,” wrote Rebecca Nina from Burundi.
Diana Gwee from Liberia wrote, “When Ebola surfaced, my aunt, who used to help my mom in the salon, got infected and died two days after…People were dying constantly.”
Laxmi Ghising from Nepal wrote, “We didn’t have enough money for food or school.”
Cynthia Gwee from Liberia wrote, “In school, we were beaten by the teacher if we did something wrong.”
As brutal as their lives were, coming to America was both exciting and scary. It was often overwhelming to have to learn a new culture and language, live in frigid weather, go to a place where they didn’t know anybody, and permanently leave behind people close to them.
“I thought America was better than Ghana before I arrived, but no country is good if you don’t have friends and family to cheer you up when you are down,” wrote Derick Badu.
“It was a hard adjustment for me living in America without my mom and grandma,” wrote Cynthia Gwee
“People had to teach us about American rules,” wrote Kabita Rai from Nepal. “They taught us things like how to wash our hands after using the bathroom, when to call 911, and how to flush the toilet…There were so many things to remember.”
Neha Tamang from Nepal wrote, “I had a tough time figuring out what my teacher was saying, and it was hard to make new friends because of the new language.”
Still, they worked hard, learned to enjoy things ranging from French fries to video games, got jobs, and have big career dreams like Americans born here. Their enthusiasm and pride is contagious.
Laxmi Ghising from Nepal wrote, “I’m so grateful to be in America and have a better education and a better life.”
Chance Mugiraneza from Congo wrote, “I was so happy in America, and realized that my dreams came true.”
“I’m so extremely happy that God changed our lives, and I’m so thankful to be here in America,” wrote Rebecca Nina from Burundi.
After the readings Juelke told her students, “You make me so proud. You’re amazing. I am so proud to be your teacher.”
We should all be proud of them.