Refugee women attend a class at the JRS Melkadida Adult Literacy center, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Dollo Ado - My name is Shemsia Nuru*. I was born in Balat Hawa in the Gedo Region of Somalia. I am forty eight (48) years old married woman with ten children, five girls and five boys. Back home in our country, we were pastoralists who depended on livestock for livelihood. Our livelihood was regularly affected by drought and famine. However, the situation became worse when the Somali Islamists imposed their strict law and forced everyone to become loyal to them and abide to their rules. When we could no longer tolerate their harsh rule we decided to leave our home country. We escaped in the middle of the night because the Islamists did not allow people to move to areas outside their control.

During our escape we heard that Ethiopia was sheltering Somali refugees and so we rushed towards Ethiopia. On the way, I left behind my husband to look after our goats and sheep. I brought our children to Dollo area where we met thousands of fellow Somalis who had fled the country. We were registered and transported to Melkadida refugee camp. Life in the camp was tough because we totally depended on food rations which were not enough to sustain us. For me, it was a very tough time being alone with ten children.

One day I was sitting in front of my home in the camp when three men came to me and asked whether I knew how to read and write. They were asking because they were seeking to recruit literate refugees for work. I told them that I did not know how to read and write because I had never had the chance to go to school in my country.  However, after a few days I heard that there was an organization which offered to teach adults how to read and write.  I made an effort to learn more and find where the learning site was located.  Like many of my friends, I felt shy about going to the JRS adult education center because of my age. Our attitude was that on older person cannot learn! Arriving at the center, a teacher welcomed us with open hands and introduced himself and told us about JRS. After registering our names, he gave us books and pens and promised us that education will enlighten us.  I am still grateful for the hospitality, information and support that was given to us.

I was enrolled in level one class. On the first day, our class was full of adult students who were eager to learn. Then the teacher put us in two groups and we were given three subjects - Mathematics, English and Af-Somale (the Somali language). Attending the adult class was a great privilege for me. I tried my best to grasp every word from the teacher. After six months, I could see a lot of positive changes in my life. I was able to read the alphabet, count numbers and write names. I have become someone who is self-reliant and educated. JRS adult education gave us the knowledge and skills which helped improve our life and livelihood.

Four months after completing the course I applied for a peer counseling training at JRS and sat for a literacy exam. I was able to score the highest mark in the written job interview which comprised both numeracy and literacy. I was selected for a three months training at the end of which I was employed at JRS-Melkadida. Now I am working as a peer counselor and earning one thousand Ethiopian Birr (ETB 1000) per month. Now my life has improved. Three of my daughters and two of my sons have married. The others are attending school. In the future I am planning to establish my own business. I am very grateful to JRS without whose support I would not be where I am today.

* Name changed to protect the identity of the individual

Countries Related to this Region

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