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Jamal Abdalla’s smile and determination strike anyone upon first meeting him. Through all of the hardships he has seen and the journey he has taken; he still embraces life with courage and optimism.
Abdalla was born in a small village in Darfur in Northern Sudan. Life before the war was peaceful and free. Families owned their own land, farmed, were not afraid of their property being damaged or stolen, and business was good. Jamal‘s family owned a few cows and horses and horse back riding was among one of his favorite activities. Conflict in Darfur began the spring of 2003 when two rebel forces initiated attacks against the government. Four hundred villages and millions of villagers fled their homes. Abdalla and his family were chased out of their village. “Some were killed, others ran in different directions,” Jamal stated. Jamal says he is still unable to locate his family at this time but thinks they are somewhere in Northern Sudan. Abdalla ran with his cousins and a few friends who were later killed in front of him by government forces. He fled to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where he stayed for six months waiting to cross the border to Kenya where he would seek refuge in the Kakuma camp.
Life in the camp was hard. Each person was given three kilos of rice, three kilos of beans, and one liter of oil every 15 days. Food and space were limited and refugees were unable to work. Most of the refugees hoped to resettle to another country such as the U.S.
Abdalla was resettled by Bethany Christian Services in February of 2012. He currently lives in his own apartment on the northeast side of Grand Rapids where he has learned to get around using The Rapid. Abdalla’s favorite thing about the U.S. is the freedom to “seek what you want and find it.” His least favorite thing to see is young people wandering the streets “smoking and drinking with no plan.” In his free time Abdalla goes for runs and practices his English both at home and at Grand Rapids International Fellowship (GRIF), an English school provided through Bethany Christian Services in Kentwood.
Someday, Abdalla plans to return to Darfur to visit, but right now he is content with his life in Grand Rapids. He is actively seeking a job and attending job training courses at the Bethany Christian Service’s offices. He says that for now, he will work anywhere that will hire him. In the future, his dream is to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Join us as we celebrate the courage of refugees worldwide and seek to empower and encourage refugees in the Grand Rapids area.
World Refugee Day Celebration!
Arts and Food Festival
Saturday, June 23
10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church
207 East Fulton St.
PARA (Programs Assisting Refugee Acculturation) works to link newly arrived refugees with church cosponsors, individual volunteers, service providers and other community resources to help them in their adjustment to their new home in West Michigan. Refugee Foster Care assists refugee minors, who come to the United States with no familial support, in finding caring foster parents, and gaining the necessary life-skills to become healthy and productive members of our community