June 20th was World Refugee Day and Glamour magazine asked high fashion model Halima Aden to write about her experiences growing up in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and here are some snippets from the powerful piece:
— Today is World Refugee Day, and so I find myself reflecting on what being one means to me. There are so many backgrounds that I identify with—I’m a black Muslim Somali American refugee woman. I’m also just a typical 21-year-old trying to figure out the day-to-day of adulthood. As I think about my story and what has led me down the path I’ve chosen, it really does boil down to one thing: community.
— …I’m often asked about my upbringing in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. I always make sure in my answer I let people know about the overwhelming sense of community that lives there. I didn’t have toys. I didn’t always have food. I didn’t have clothes (I know—and ironically, now I’m a fashion model), but I did embrace and love the people around me.
— My mom, who fled the Somali civil war, wanted me to understand and empathize with others, even as a child.
— At the camp there were people from all over Africa. The Swahili language became our common ground. I recall celebrating Christmas with some children and praying to the Turkana god with others. With time they too would join in traditions and show acceptance of my Islamic faith. Kakuma: a community composed of people who didn’t speak the same native language or share the same religion but who found a language of understanding.
— When we arrived in the United States, we ultimately settled in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and I was once again overcome with a calming sense of fellowship…Luckily, Minnesota is a community too, and people invited us into the warmth.
— Then I launched my career in fashion, and I was welcomed with open arms by a diverse group of people, including fellow models, photographers, makeup artists, designers, stylists, production teams, and agents. I’m sure most of them had never worked with someone who looked like me before—a girl wearing a hijab and dressed modestly—but these folks have become my people.
— If we open our minds and hearts, we will see that there is community all around us. Be part of one. Help make one. Happy World Refugee Day!