Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Refugees: 'We Will Finally Have a Future'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Refugees: 'We Will Finally Have a Future'

Article excerpt

Ayni Khalif Sheikh Abu and her family's tribe have long been

banished from Somalia's mainstream.

Their city has been trampled by war, and they've spent years

toiling in a Kenyan refugee camp.

But they're confident Jacksonville is their long-awaited place

of peace.

Sheikh Abu, 24, and her brother and sister arrived in

Jacksonville on June 2. Other relatives and dozens more refugees

from the once quiet coastal city of Brava are expected in the

near future.

While dozens of Somali refugees have moved to Jacksonville

since their east African nation's tribal warfare began in 1990,

the Sheikh Abus are the first Bravans to do so. They're among

the first Bravan refugees in the United States.

U.S. State Department officials cautioned resettlement

officials this year that the Bravans are among the most

primitive of refugees, having had little or no formal education,

and they could have the most difficulty assimilating to the

United States.

But so far, the Sheikh Abus and other Bravans have endeared

themselves to resettlement officials at Lutheran Social Services

in Jacksonville.

"They seem to be very gentle, nice people," said Venda Bukac,

the agency's resettlement coordinator. "It may be more of a

problem for them adjusting to the culture here. Most of them

have never driven cars, that sort of thing. But they're in less

shock than many of the ethnic groups."

The Sheikh Abus, with their ornate clothing, easygoing nature

and ability to speak some English, surprised Lutheran officials,

who had been expecting extremely primitive people.

Sheikh Abu said recently in her Southside apartment off Philips

Highway that the differences between the United States and the

refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya, where they had been since 1991,

are innumerable. …

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