On January 17th, Maine Coast Waldorf High School held its first forum of the new year welcoming an extraordinary young woman and a rising star in Maine. Fatuma Hussein brought her infectious energy to the high school students and to the 8th graders who had just finished a unit on Africa.
Fatuma was 12 years old when war broke out in Somalia, East Africa, where she was living with her family. Forced to flee, she arrived in a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya. From then on, Fatuma told us, she started the long journey of most refugees who come to the US. It is a very long and arduous journey which demands a thorough vetting process, countless forms, interviews and a referral for resettlement by a UN refugee agency. This journey can take months or even years and many are never accepted as refugees.
Fatuma initially landed in Georgia but eventually came to Maine in 2001, when she moved to Lewiston. She loved the small city feeling of Lewiston and quickly became an activist in the refugee community. She is the founder of the “United Somali Women of Maine” which, in 2016, has morphed into the “Immigrant Resource Center of Maine.” Their mission is “to support refugee and immigrant communities by offering culturally and linguistically sensitive services to promote a healthy and equitable Maine.”
Fatuma shared her life story with energy and even humor in spite of some very sad passages. She is living proof of human beings’ resilience and power to reconstruct themselves. On top of her numerous political and social activities, Fatuma is raising a big family, with some children in college and the youngest one still nursing! In 2014 Fatuma was named one of “the Mainers to be thankful for” by the Portland Press Herald.
We are certainly grateful that Fatuma took time from her very busy schedule to come and inspire us and we certainly hope to maintain close ties with Fatuma and IRCM. I’d like to end my report about this wonderful forum with a quote from Martin Luther King which Fatuma recently recited at a MLK celebration: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…what are you doing for others?”