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'We started from zero.' Najma Hadid describes her path from Somalia to the United States

Tuesday March 26, 2024
By Courtney Skornia

A blood pressure monitor. Najma Hadid plans a career in nursing after arriving in Springfield, Missouri from Malaysia just a few months ago. Soc7

A blood pressure monitor. Najma Hadid plans a career in nursing after arriving in Springfield, Missouri from Malaysia just a few months ago.

Hadid, who's just 23, came to the U.S. by way of Malaysia where she was a refugee and now lives in Springfield.

Twenty-three-year-old Najma Hadid has been in Springfield less than four months and has been adjusting to her new life, which includes dreams of becoming a nurse.

Her story starts off where she was born, in Merca, a town located on the lower province of Somalia on the Horn of Africa. Soon after, a war arose in Somalia that made it hard for Najma and her family to live a normal life.

“I was having good time and good childhood," she said, "but in 2012/13, everything was different, and I don’t feel that I can remember good memories.”

In 2006, a terrorist group known as Al-Shabaab rose to prominence in Somalia and surrounding countries and has been fighting for control of the country ever since. The group has claimed responsibility for many bombings in Mogadishu and Somalia and is considered one of Africa’s deadliest terrorist groups in recent years. In 2012, Al-Shabaab's leader announced that the group would join forces with terrorist group, al-Qaeda.

“You will hear a lot — not hear, you will see, it will happen — you will be shopping, and you will see an explosion happen. Then you need to run or you need to stay in one place," she said. "Then you will go back. If you are outside and explosion happened and no one sees you coming back, they will know that you died in the explosion. That's life there.”

Najma and her family moved to Mogadishu, just 58 miles from Merca. She tried to take courses for nursing school but was unable to finish due to explosions that would often shut down her way to school.

“If you go by one day, you can’t go the next day," she said. "Maybe the road is closed for some reason. Maybe there was an explosion. That's why I couldn't finish anything, and I moved to Malaysia. Now I'm here (the U.S.) to continue my education and my dream.”

In Somalia, she said, she didn't feel safe, "you don’t feel safe to walk around. You don’t feel safe to do your education or do your shopping. Because I don’t know — sometimes they catch young girls and young boys for no reason, and they put you in the jail for no reason, and that’s why you are afraid and stay home.”

After Najma and her family moved to Malaysia as refugees, their lives still weren’t easy.

“We started from zero. My sister is the youngest one of my siblings. They went to school," she said, "and you need to pay for school because it was not free. Also, we went refugees there because we can't afford visa or the money."

In Malaysia, Najma worked as a cashier in an Arabic shop. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Arabic people from Yemen, Syria, Somalia and other countries visited Malaysia. She and her friend, Layla, decided to start their own business doing hair and makeup.

“She asked me, 'what do you know?' I know how to makeup. She says, 'I know how to do hair.' Okay, and we decide to do — every Eid, we celebrate, after Ramadan, we celebrate, we have — people, they call our number and they said, ‘I want to make my hair at home. Can I come?' And they get to know us like that."

In 2022, people went back to their homes, and Najma started to lose customers. When the pandemic subsided, she became a kindergarten teacher with no experience besides the fact she could translate Arabic.

“I was a teacher," she said, "and at the same time, I thought, 'am I a mother?' But I get a lot of experience, and I loved it. One of my struggles was, I was still separating from my students in there because they love me, and I said, ‘how can i leave them’ and she said, ‘you need to go. You need to start your life,” said Najma.

Before moving to Springfield, Najma’s class held a going-away party for her and celebrated her new life in America.

"And I went there and there’s cake, there’s cuddles, there were gifts," she said. "The kids are saying ‘We will miss you.' "

The International Institute of Southwest Missouri has helped Najma find a job and get adjusted to her new life in Springfield. She went to Ozarks Technical Community College to learn more English and is currently training to be a medical assistant. She said her hardest struggle in Springfield so far has been making new friends.

“We felt we lost a lot of friends, that we are making another life, new life," she said, "so we were worried, not struggle.”

She said that Springfield is kind to her, and she is grateful for this new life where she can pursue her dreams.

“I want to become nurse. I want to help a lot of peoples," she said. "I want to make my mother proud of me. Yeah, it is very important dream for me.”

Like many other Springfieldians, Najma said she loves going to Battlefield Mall, getting coffee and shopping for makeup at her favorite store, Sephora.


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