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Asma's Story

For Asma, education has been a central goal since she was a small child. As a young Somali girl, Asma left her war-torn home with her mother for a refugee camp in Uganda. Growing up for nine years in the camp, Asma witnessed daily the war-wounded and sick patients served in the refugee clinic. This clinic was served by medical providers from all over the world and by refugee volunteers in the camp. “We did not have the medical technology that you see here in America. High school-aged refugees with no training would sometimes have to give injections or medical care to patients. Because of the situation, you just had to do it. We all volunteered in some way and since I was young my job was to carry the water to the clinic. I always lived near a hospital in Somalia and in the refugee camp in Uganda. There was always a shortage of nurses because people were fleeing the war. In the refugee clinic I would bring the water and would see wounded patients and some outbreaks of diseases. In the refugee camp the nutrition was not good and many people had to live close together so sometimes people would get things like TB. Because of the situation , I was inspired to become a nurse. I would talk to all of the people working at the clinic from NGOs from different countries. I asked them how they got their jobs. They would say they went to school, to college, to the university. I knew I would have to seek an education to make a difference.”

Asma lived with her mother and two nephews in the refugee camp and applied to come to the U.S. She began to study English and watch DVDs and read whatever she could. She bought whatever books in English she could find and brought them with her to the U.S. Asma arrived in Tennessee in December of 2005 through Catholic Charities. Within a month of arriving, Asma got her driver’s license and began studying for her GED soon after. She wanted a job as a nursing assistant but first worked full-time in a factory. Asma attended classes to become a nursing assistant while studying and working and received her GED in December of 2006. Her dream of becoming a nurse stayed with her and she applied to different schools for an LPN program where she could apply her valued experience as a nursing assistant. During 2007, Asma studied for six months to prepare for the nurse entrance exam while continuing to work. She knew she would have to study hard because the other students had more exposure to American medical technology and facilities than she had had growing up in Somalia and the refugee camp. 

With the help of the Somali Community Center of Nashville, Asma applied and was accepted into a one year full-time LPN program and is now entering her second semester. She will graduate in August of 2009. She continues to work while going to school five days a week. Asma is living with her mother and helping support her family both here and those still in Africa. Asma is always motivated by her mother’s words. “My mom always tells me ‘this is a different world, it’s not like back home, you can do it.’ Asma says that “in America if you have the potential to do something, if you work to achieve it, you can do it. In Somalia, and much of Africa, you can only go to college if your families have money, only if they can pay and send you somewhere to go to college. And in many places in Somalia there is no education for anyone, for children. There is no infrastructure. Only in the very big cities if families can pay for it.” Asma hopes one day to work as a nurse at the Siloam Clinic in Nashville. She says “when you are doing nursing you want to help people. Many people do not have insurance. The Siloam Clinic helped me when I first came here. They treated me properly, with respect and compassion. They help many people. After I had health insurance I went to other doctors but the Siloam Clinic was the best. I want to work for a place like Siloam and make a difference in helping people.”