‘My mother gave birth to me while escaping a civil war. I spent the first 7 years of my life in a refugee camp. Today, I became the FIRST person to graduate college in my family.’

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“On December 1997, my mother gave birth to me while escaping from a civil war. My family walked to a refugee camp in Kenya to seek safety and a better life. The Daddab refugee camp located in Kenya became our new home for the next seven years.

My family lost everything during the war, so we had to start over with nothing. In the camp, my parents worked tremendously hard to provide for their children while also relying on humanitarian aid. My parents never went to school growing up, but they wanted their children to reach for higher education.

As a little girl, I witnessed horrible things happening within the camp. Innocent people were often mistreated. One particular instance has stuck with me since I was four years old. People were protesting to get humanitarian aid, but the police tear gassed them for no reason. Innocent, unarmed people advocating to have food for their kids just straight up got tear gassed. I couldn’t do anything at four years old. I had no voice, and even less power.

After waiting seven years for resettlement, we eventually moved to the United States in 2005 with absolutely no money. My family went through a lot of struggles when we moved here. Despite all of the trauma we faced, I tried to focus on my education. Learning was the best opportunity for me to overcome my trauma and expand my horizons. I realized that the only way in which I could change the world was through education and knowledge.

Since then, I have become a social justice activist, and have organized many protests and marches to fight for immigrants, Muslims, and refugees.

Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed

Graduating from college is the path to elevating the issues I care about. I couldn’t do anything at four years old; I was powerless. Now that I have a college degree, I can speak for those in danger from a place of safety, security, and with a stronger, more powerful voice.

I am the youngest of five siblings and today I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. It is truly a dream come true.

Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed

My parents have sacrificed so much for their children. Even if I gave them the whole world, it would never be enough to repay them. I hope to continue making them proud.

Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed

This graduation is bigger than me. It is a chance to show the younger children in my family that anything is possible is they work hard and believe. If they rise above hate.

Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed
Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed
Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed

My goal is to continue with my education and one day become a lawyer or have a doctorate degree. I also want to focus on my modeling career because it makes me happy too. Because I am MORE than just one thing.

Courtesy of Jason Poulin Photography

I want to inspire other young people who are less fortunate. I want them to know that their dreams are valid no matter who they are or where they’re from.”

Courtesy of Hamdia Ahmed

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hamdia Ahmed of Portland, Maine. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and Twitter here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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