It Takes A Team: Part 4

By Juilee Shivalkar

The fourth and last part of this mini-series focuses on Hassan, the newest team member. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!

The newest addition to this team is Hassan: a newly arrived deaf Somali refugee. Hassan, who arrived in the US nearly 2 months ago, is “a long way from home” as Page Love put it.

Hassan originally fled his home as a small child, fleeing from a city in Somalia to the outskirts of the city, eventually making it over to Kenya when he was 5 years old. Soon after his family fled, his father passed away and his mother remarried. For the next 20 years, Hassan lived in a UN refugee camp in Kenya; it’s where he grew up.

While in Kenya, he would cook and sell food, similar to a street vendor. A woman named Karen would grow vegetables for him to use– much like Marwan’s garden now. His specialty? A savory triangle cake, baked with potatoes, onion and most importantly– mint. Although life in the US is quite different from his life in Kenya, he maintains that Kenya isn’t too different from the US.

“They have McDonalds; they have Coke. It’s not much change” Hassan reassured us.

Since he was very young when he first fled Somalia, he does not remember what language his family spoke when he was younger. It was too long ago. However, in the refugee camp, he was able to learn sign language. Although it’s not quite ASL, Hassan has no problem communicating with Nathan, the ASL tutor, or any of the others.

According to Nathan, a self-proclaimed Northerner, the sign language Hassan uses is “a little bit different” but the difference is similar to the differences in dialect between the North and the South.

“It’s similar to how Southerners say Y’all.” Nathan explained. Although they tried, they weren’t able to figure out the sign for y’all, at least not while I was still there, so they just spelled it out. However, according to Nathan, there is at least one benefit to the different dialect Hassan uses: “He taught me a new sign for tomato.”

Although being a deaf refugee and trying to learn the customs of a new country is difficult, Marwan and Hassan prove that it isn’t impossible to adjust to a new life, even in a foreign country. With the help and support of their team (St. Bart’s, Page Love, Nathan, Rebecca, and Araz), it’s clear both Hassan and Marwan will manage thrive here in Clarkston.

An affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries
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