A Mentor and Sister

Nimo Adam | March 6, 2023

Nimo teaching at the group home

My Name is Nimo Adam. I was born and raised in Somalia. My childhood was full of chaos since my family and I lived in a war zone area. I spent all of my childhood attending boarding school and lived at an orphanage until I finished high school. Growing up was very challenging.

During my childhood, I was interested in reading and writing. I was a curious child who asked about everything, which allowed me to better understand what I was going through. I wanted to become a teacher to help those in need to learn. I remember during my primary school years, I always tried to help my friends who didn’t understand the lessons.

Unfortunately, after I finished high school and left the orphanage, I faced harassment and racial discrimination because I had living family members. This led me to depression. My problems got worse every day until I decided to escape the stigma I was experiencing in Somalia and seek safety and a life of dignity.

In February 2017, I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I didn’t know anyone in Indonesia, and I couldn’t speak the language. After a long and horrible journey, I took a taxi that dropped me in front of the UNHCR office. They provided me with a document for asylum seekers and told me to go and search for the Somali community on my own. It was difficult for me as I did not have any money and I did not know the area. I eventually found a Somali lady who welcomed me to her small boarding home. Unfortunately, after a while, she ran out of money and we both became homeless once again. I was homeless in the great city of Jakarta without knowing a local language and without getting any support from anyone.

When you are a refugee living in Jakarta, life can be boring and gloomy. People have stayed for many years, and you can see their sadness and disappointment. Day and night they’ve waited and felt like all doors have been closed. It can feel like you are living in a prison where there is a lack of hope and lack of opportunity to earn just enough for your basic needs and survive the day-to-day.

After 7 months in Jakarta and slowly building my English language vocabulary, I went back to UNHCR to ask them for support as my circumstance was getting harder. UNCHR then told me to apply to a job with CWS Indonesia who were looking to hire a female Somali interpreter and a teacher for CWS’ Home for Women and Girls at Risk. I applied immediately, and that week CWS called me for an interview and exam.

Initially, I was slightly disappointed because I had not heard back from CWS. I thought I did not get the job due to my lack of experience interpreting. However, during the first week of Ramadan, which was in August 2017, CWS called me and told me that I was hired. Not long after, the Education Officer from CWS also offered me a job as a Mathematics teacher. Since I started teaching in September 2017, I taught many students from different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. Fortunately, the CWS staff and the guidelines we were provided, helped me to become a strong and skillful teacher for these diverse students. This allowed me to use my childhood love of volunteering, my knowledge and my time to teach people.

Being a CWS teacher opened so many doors for me that I forgot about my life in limbo in Indonesia. I can work on my personal development and capacity building, and I can support my refugee communities. I collaborated with CWS on many activities. I was the first female teacher to teach a science class for these women. I hope this gives them encouragement to follow in my footsteps. I also volunteered in CWS’ Big Brother – Big Sister program which was a really great personal experience and opportunity to support other girls who are in the same situation as me. All these activities were inspirational and I learned a lot. Teaching in the CWS Home for Women and Girls at Risk and giving women the chance to learn and access education brings me joy.

There are some challenges, such as trying to teach mathematics to people who may have never held a pen or read a book before. Nevertheless, there are many things that encourage me to stay as a volunteer and a teacher, regardless of my personal difficulties and emotions. For example, I had some who could not read numbers or write but today they are adept at both. This makes me feel that I did something. Sometimes I could also see the changes in morale, and that they were eager to learn more. I hope that I can become their role model and give them hope so that they stay on the right track to becoming positive people. I want to become the best teacher and the best sister for them.

As a teacher and a person, I always told my students and my refugee community that education is the backbone of life. If you didn’t have the opportunity to study in your country of origin due to violence and/or your family’s capacity, today is the right time for you to learn and prepare for your future.

Nimo is an interpreter and teach at a CWS-sponsored group home for unaccompanied or separated refugee children in Jakarta. You can learn more about our work in Indonesia here