Fadumo Shariff is seen with her son,
Ismal, nearly 3, and daughter Salma, 3 months old, at
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Brookfield. The Somalian native
and her family resettled in Milwaukee in 2004, through a
Lutheran Social Services refugee program, after spending
most of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya.
This family came to Wisconsin last
year from a refugee camp in Thailand. From left are Ehnay
Blur Soe, 4, his mother, Eh Ree, his brother, Eh Ku Soe, 7,
his father, See Nay, a native of Burma, and his sister,
Paweh Nei Ser, 9. See Nay’s village was destroyed in 1997
by the Myanmar army, forcing him in the refugee camp in
BROOKFIELD - Burmese native See Nay came to Wisconsin after
spending 10 years in a refugee camp in Thailand. Similarly, Fadumo
Shariff came here after spending most of her childhood in a refugee
camp in Kenya.
Both came with help from Lutheran Social Services and Immanuel
Lutheran Church. On Friday, they and their families will attend the
World Refugee Day Dinner, held at the church and sponsored by LSS.
See Nay is of the Burmese Karen ethnicity and in 1997, he left
Burma after the Myanmar army destroyed his village. While he did not
lose family members, some of his friends did. He left for a refugee
camp in Thailand, where he wasn’t allowed to work and had to live
off of what was given to him. In May of last year, through a
sponsorship by Immanuel Lutheran Church in Brookfield, he, his wife
and children came to the Milwaukee area and eventually settled in
Now See Nay works, takes English as a second language classes and
is working toward getting his driver’s license. His wife, Eh Ree,
works at the child care center at the church. Two of their children,
Paweh Nei Ser, 9, and Eh Ku Soe, 7, attend a public school in
Menomonee Falls. At home is 4-year-old Ehnay Blur Soe,
affectionately called "Blue."
"In my country, we didn’t have freedom. When I live in my
country we need hope," See Nay said.
Shariff, of the minority Somalian ethnic group of Bantu, came to
Milwaukee with her adopted mother and siblings in the summer of
2004. Now, she is married with two children, Ismal who is almost 3
years old and 3-month-old Salma.
In the coming weeks, she will graduate from high school.
There are many differences See Nay and Shariff have encountered
here, food being the biggest for See Nay and his family.
Food was simpler in Burma and the refugee camp, he said.
Susan Klagmann, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s refugee
sponsorship committee, said Eh Ree used to put Popsicles on the
shelf instead of the freezer and watermelons in the freezer. Shariff’s
mother was afraid to use a stove or go to the bathroom.
"What’s this thing? It makes the fire by itself,"
Shariff recalls her mother saying about the stove.
For Shariff, everything in America is bigger.
The purpose of the fundraising dinner at the church is multifold,
said Ako Hasegaw with LLS. It is not only to raise funds for the
organization’s refugee and immigrant services, but to also bring
to light the issue of needed sponsors for refugees and celebrate the
success of those who have resettled in America.
"They help the family with anything they need to start their
own life in the U.S.," Hasegaw explained of the sponsor’s
Most sponsors are committees formed by churches or civic groups
of eight to 10 people.
"There are more people in need of sponsors, than there are
sponsors. It takes a lot of time and commitment. Imagine popping
yourself in another country; everyone is talking but you don’t
understand what they’re saying," said Linda Schuler, a member
of the church’s refugee sponsorship committee.
Klagmann agreed being a sponsor could be time-consuming,
especially when the refugees first come to the country. However,
once they learn the ways of the country and get their lives in
order, they prove to be assets in the quest to assist other
Both See Nay and Shariff help with translating for those
relocating to the Milwaukee area from their respective countries.
"He’s become a leader in the community. He’s a good guy
and he helps out," Klagmann said of See Nay.
In addition to that, the refugees and their sponsors have became
family members. Klagmann was at the birth of both of Shariff’s
children, even cutting the umbilical cord attached to Salma.
Rasmieyh Abdelnabi can be reached at email@example.com