Abdikarim & Suad Mohammed

JWL Diploma Recipients Continue Their Education in the United States


Abdikarim and Suad Mohammed, brother and sister, have lived most of their lives in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya Africa. Growing up in the camp was a struggle. Most refugees come to the camp for safety reasons—war, famine, or religious persecution. The camp is located in the desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest city. It is a place no one chooses to live, very few people visit, and it is difficult to leave. They explain how living in such a harsh environment makes one lose hope.

The highest level of school available in Kakuma was secondary education – that was until Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins (JWL) filled the tertiary education need and set up their first site in Kakuma in 2010. Abdikarim explained, “God sent this organisation to us to open our eyes to higher education. It was the first organisation to provide tertiary education to specifically help refugees. For decades, there was this huge gap! No one in Kakuma even thought of higher education before JWL arrived.”

The average refugee spends more than ten years living in the camp. Most have little hope for a chance to resettle. This dream became a reality for Suad and Abdikarim in the Fall of 2014 when they were chosen to resettle in Columbus, Ohio. Like other refugees who begin to fit into their new culture, they made friends, many who were refugees, some from Kakuma.

Siblings and JWL Diploma recipents, Abdikarim and Suad Mohammed attend a meeting in Washington D.C., October 2013 Photo: JWL/2013

When the norm is to quickly find a job and make money, both Abdikarim and Suad immediately started to work. What was different, they noticed, was that their passion for higher education that began in Kakuma, was stronger than ever.

“Because of JWL, I knew I had to continue with my education, and JWL started that motivation.” Abdikarim said his goal was clear, “When I arrived in the USA I had one thing in mind, that was to continue my college education, and I even knew what I wanted to study.”

Suad agreed, “JWL prepared us for our journey. They gave use leadership, encouragement, guidance, and education. Without JWL my arrival in the US would have been much more difficult. Instead, I was able to start with hope and confidence.”

What helped Suad and Abdikarim’s transition into the US college at Columbus Community College was the easy enrolment into the school. Since the JWL Diploma Programme is awarded by Regis University in Denver, Colorado, Suad explained how easily her credits transferred as general education requirements. In contrast, her younger brother who was too young at the time to join JWL found himself in a much longer delay, requiring a full year of English as a Second Language (ESL) and other required classes before he could enrol in the same school.

They now find themselves continuing their tertiary education. Suad is attending school at Columbus Community College and is enroled as a double major in the nursing programme and in social work. Abdikarim started in the same school and is now attending Ohio State University, working towards a Degree in computer science. His ultimate goal is to continue with a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering.

When Abdikarim thought about life without JWL, he stated, “God only knows. But absolutely, it was JWL that tremendously helped me because it gave me the ability to take classes in the Kakuma camp. I do not think I would have had the motivation to continue with Higher Education in the US had it not been for JWL who provided me with the motivation to learn.”

Story provided by: Jesuit Worldwide Learning