She was only ten years old when she became the mother of her two infant nieces and seven year old brother. In an effort to lead her family out of the dangers of the Somali Civil War, Asha followed a group of neighbors headed to an Ethiopian refugee camp for safety. They all boarded a truck. On the way to the camp, the truck had an accident and flipped over. Asha’s girls and brother flew out of the truck but were okay. Asha, on the other hand, was not. Her legs were pinned underneath the vehicle. Once her legs were freed her family somehow made its way to the refugee camp in Ethiopia. There were no doctors or a hospital available to help repair the damage done to her legs and Asha never regained the use of her legs. Her twisted legs seemed to stop growing and atrophy set in. Asha managed mothering her brother and nieces at the refugee camp for ten years while crawling around on her hands and knees. At age 23, Asha’s family finally got their opportunity to start a new life in America.
I met Asha, a young refugee mother, shortly after her arrival in Memphis, TN. I was shocked to learn more about her story and situation. At that time, she had no wheelchair to get around and no easy way to get in and out of the shower or to reach the countertops or stove top in her kitchen to cook meals for her family. She could not transport herself to the grocery store or doctors appointments. She did not speak English and had no American life skills. She was unable to even write her own name. But I was humbled that Asha had survived such challenging circumstances to make it with her family alive to Memphis, TN, and that she was so eager for my help. She is such an inspiration to me and is also my friend.
Through my volunteer work at the resettlement agency and friendship with Asha, I learned of many other refugees in Memphis also living in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. My heart sank. Inspired by Christ and Asha’s story, my husband, my friend Deborah and I started Asha’s Refuge. My heart is daily learning to beat love and hope and wants to help disadvantaged refugees in my city successfully resettle. With over 200 refugees resettling in Memphis each year, this task is huge. We desperately need support and the help from the community.