This was the title of the an amazing documentary about two Somali Bantu families. These families were rescued from a life of war in Somalia who were displaced in a refugee camp in Kenya for thirteen years. It gave insight into the life of  Somali refugees whose destiny changed when they were sponsored by relief agencies to start a new life in the United States.

 

The steps for their arrival into a whole new life started in the Kenya refugee camp where they were taught about American culture, and how to use day-to-day electrical appliances. Entry into the Unites States was their ticket to a better life that would be filled with opportunities that they thought was unimaginable, but also filled with many obstacles. One of the families settled in Springfield, Massachussets; and the second family in Atlanta, Georgia. One thing that struck out for me was their constant statement of “We are free”. These families had seen things in their lives that were horrific and frightening. They had seen family members murdered and raped. They lost members of their family in all the shuffle of war and bloodshed. This was their chance to start fresh in a new place, and create new memories that would maybe begin the healing process of all the inner scars their souls experienced. Upon their arrival into the United States they were about to experience different trials. They had to tackle learning a new language, way of life, poverity, racism, and culture shock.

They felt lost in this country. The constant frustrations in adapting into this society was a daily occurrence. The children were enrolled into school and a huge adjustment for them. They never experienced school life. One incident that stood out for me was when the seven year old girl was being followed by the camera to school and was talking about Africa. You could see her pride, strength and wisdom at such a young age. An American child followed her trying to be in front of the camera when the African girl told the other her this is about me. I’m African, not about you so leave. The American child said “I’m African too, I’m African-American”. The little African girl laughed and said “You’re not African, I’m African”. The other child looked confused and further challenged the seven year old girl by saying “I’m African, don’t you see I’m brown just like you”. Subhanallah, this showed me the gap between these two girls. The African child trying to cling to her culture and heritage was very prevalent. It was astonishing to see this behavior in such a young child, truly a beautiful moment.

The eighteen months of filming these families resettlement in the United States made me reflect on how fortunate we are to live with all these luxuries and opportunities that we tend to take for granted at times. I mean, did you ever really struggle in using a microwave or using a stove, or trying to learn how to open a medicine bottle with a child proof cap. It has made me very grateful that I had a good education, and didn’t suffer real hardships. It makes my so-called complaints and problems insignificant. These people had ambition in learning how to succeed in this society. It really proved to me how immigrants strive to make ends meet, and how dedicated they are in working, and learning basics in order to succeed in this country. They don’t take anything for granted, every opportunity that arises they leap ten times harder to attain it. It made me see the beauty in my country and how great it really is despite its flaws.

The title “Rain in a Dry Land” may be interpreted in several ways. I choose to see it as a barren land with no vegetation dry, crackled, a place that the dirt has become stone-like due to its hardships. Then when rain drops fall from the heavens, it’s harvested and replenished with vegetation. Growth in places that was deemed impossible because its seeds were invisible and thought to be consumed by the heat and blaze from the sun on its hard dusty surface. Allah bestowed His mercy on this land and gave it a chance to thrive, a second chance to re-bloom after many years of barrenness. Now it resembles a tropical paradise full of trees, flowers, fruits, and creatures that enjoy its splendor and beauty. This is the magnificent journey of Aden, Madina, Abrai and all their children. A chance to redeem their spirits, and lives…a second chance to heal the wounds of war and many years of neglect. 

More on their stories:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/

http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2007/raininadryland/special.html

Link for local listing times of “Rain in a Dry Land”:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/local_broadcast_v4.html

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