Finding refuge: Amgad Abdalla

Amgad Abdalla

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Amgad Abdalla and his family came to Albany from Sudan when he was 8 years old. He attended Hackett Middle School, Albany High, and Hudson Valley Community College, He's an American citizen now and dreams of being an engineer and working with refugees.

Abdalla's a driver and volunteer for RISSE in Albany, and still feels at home in this community of immigrants in the Capital Region because he's lived most of his life among immigrants and refugees.

Why did you come here?

My dad has a big issue with the government back home. He was against the government and over there, if you are against the government either you join them or you die.

So he choose to come here. His brother brought him here. His brother used to work at the Sudanese embassy so he brought him here with a visiting visa and once he came here he applied from the inside to be a refugee. He said he didn't want to go back -- he was scared of his life. And so they give him approval to stay and then he applied for us, to give us asylum, me and my family.

When I came here I was eight years old. It took him years to get the paper work to get us here. I'm so glad we are from a big family over there so there is nobody who can beat us and that's why we stay safe. And things got more crazy and so we ended up coming here.

You felt unsafe back in Sudan?

Everyday it is unsafe for us. My mom just cries from the minute we leave the house until we get back because she is expecting that none of us comes back. That is the way life is over there. Now it is getting a little better -- people start noticing around the world and start pressing the government about why these things are happening. It's getting a little better. But there is a lot of kidnapping. They sell your parts -- kill you and just take your heart, your kidney and sell it. Just two weeks ago one of my cousins they kidnaped her, she is an old woman -- she have seven children -- they kidnapped her and four days later they found her body in the river. They found her body -- no kidneys, no heart, no lungs -- they took everything and then throw her body in the river. They take you, rape you, and after they finish with whatever they need from you they kill you and take your parts. In Syria and Iraq it's worse situations than that -- it's just people will be sleeping and then bam your house get blown up.

Since I got here, thank God I've been safe. I have a lot of refugee friends, a lot of immigrant friends -- this is our second home, it's our country. We love this country just as much as everybody else love it. We never seen anything bad in this country. We have human rights here, we went to school, we went to doctors -- we are living good.

It's very hard for anybody to leave their own country and go start a new life somewhere else. Nobody wants to do that, but we have no choice but to do it.

You were very young when you first came to Albany. Can you remember anything that surprised you?

To be honest, the people. The people really surprised me. When I seen the teachers at school, they have a care about the kids -- they just hug you, you know, and smile in your face and I never seen something like this before. And the people was very, very nice -- that is one of the big exciting things. And that is what give me confidence and make me want to go to school.

And since I graduated I just made a promise to myself that I will just be there for the refugees. I have been working with RISSE for about five years now. I volunteer [US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants]. I love it. I'm very at home here at RISSE. I started as a volunteer and I work now. I coach the soccer team, I drive, I translate, I do paperwork, I work at the office, security, social worker with the families -- everything.

I went to Hackett Middle School Albany high school, Hudson Valley. Taking online classes now, mechanical engineering. But I may do something else. I want to get a degree to work with refugees.

"My dream is to work at something where I can have so much power and just try to change some things going on back home. I want to do a big change in the whole Middle East -- not just my country. I just want to get that feeling where I can have enough power to tell these people: stop what your doing -- stop it. So that is my dream. I hope it comes true, but if it's not me somebody else hopefully will do it. I just want to see it happen."

My dream is to work at something where I can have so much power and just try to change some things going on back home. I want to do a big change in the whole Middle East -- not just my country. I just want to get that feeling where I can have enough power to tell these people: stop what your doing -- stop it. So that is my dream. I hope it comes true, but if it's not me somebody else hopefully will do it. I just want to see it happen.

What could people who live here do to make life easier for refugees in our community?

One of the big things refugees face when they come here, they new to this country, the things that is here they never seen it in their country. A lot of them get very excited and sometimes that excitement can go in a negative way... sometimes in a positive way.

Like a lot of them never seen cars in their life... here they can have a 2017 car so it can be a big change and can affect them in a negative way... the clubs, bars, malls. They just really need extra care and need people to pay attention to what they doing.

And with the school district a lot of these people are very smart, but sometimes they fail the Regents because of the language, because they don't understand what is the question. But if the Regents get translated into their own language I'm sure they would pass it.

That is one of the things I faced. When I took the test I failed the test. I took the same questions and translated at home and I did a second quiz for myself and I passed it. They didn't let me take the same test but they gave me something similar to it. I went and asked my volunteer, I said I need this test, I want to read it again. I went and translated the test into Arabic and I passed it. I got a 98 out of 100. My volunteer is the one who tested me. A lot of these kids they are shy about even answering questions in class, like raise their hands answer something, because they are not sure what is going on. So if people help in the school district that would be a great thing.

You mentioned a volunteer. Who was that?

One of the neighbors, her name is Halle. She was very, very nice lady. She just takes me everywhere. She lived across the street from where we used to live. She found out we were refugees. She's American. She came to visit, she start bringing us food. We bring her food. She take me everywhere. She take me to doctor's appointment, register in school -- she was like my second parent. I love her. I still visit her until today. She moved to Ohio. I still visit her today. I visited her three weeks ago

Here are RISSE you work with a lot of kids from many different countries. It's like a mini UN in here. How do you get them to work and play together with so many different cultures and languages?

Soccer.

We started a soccer team. I love soccer. It's my favorite sport. I played four years for Albany High. I played two years at Hudson Valley. And I have class F license to coach up to youth 19, so I said let's start something for them.

Soccer is the language kids can communicate on. These kids are all from different countries and most of these kids, where they are coming from they don't have the same sports as here -- basketball, football. But they all have soccer.

"Soccer is the language kids can communicate on. These kids are all from different countries and most of these kids, where they are coming from they don't have the same sports as here -- basketball, football. But they all have soccer."

So this is the only sport that they will all understand. And they are all from different countries, so when you put them all together the only language they communicate in is English. So now they have no choice but to communicate in English. And they will feel comfortable communicating to each other because they all go to the same program, they are all day here together, and they are all on the same level. It's not the same as in school because in school people are way past their level because they are shy of talking or saying anything because they are scared somebody will make fun of them.

Asians, they face kids telling them go eat dogs, eat cats, and they come here to the after school program in a bad mood every day. The school district gotta look into to that, too, and bullying we face a lot bullying here.

The soccer team itself is getting bigger and bigger. Our goal is that in order to stay in the soccer team their grades have to go up every quarter, so everybody on the soccer team last year, they all passed. They got 97, 98, 99 -- we won all games, we won the championship last year, and we went all the way to Williamstown.

Did you face any bullying like that?

A little bit, but we were kids. To be honest I was just so lucky I have this lady Halle. She was like a second mom to me. Every time I come sad she doesn't stop questioning me until she finds out what is going on and she takes action on it right away. And until I die I will never forget what she did for me I tell her -- anything you need, anything from me.

Anything you want people to know about refugees?

Yes. We always go by "don't judge book by cover." So it doesn't matter the way they dress, it doesn't matter about what they believe -- religion is religion. But at the end of the day we are all about humanity and we are all about human beings. And every human being is making mistakes -- nobody is perfect. So I don't think that it makes any sense for you to judge somebody else because of the way they dress, what they believe, what language they speak.

A lot of people have the wrong ideas about refugees and immigrants. Obviously they just come here looking for a better life, safety, better opportunity, schools, hospitals. Most of these people come from very good countries, but it's the wrong time -- government is not good, so the country is falling apart. So they have to leave their country -- it's not their choice to leave it, but they have no other choice but to leave it. I don't know what people think, but they are just here for a better life, they are not to here to take nobody's job, they are not here to harm anybody. This isn't part of our culture.

America has always been helpful. Americans are very, very nice. I never seen any hate or making me feel like I'm a refugee -- this is something that is just starting now. We have never seen this stuff before.

"Since Donald Trump wins, it is big, big change. It's getting worse. I probably got a few people make fun of my accent, but we was all kids. But I've been watching grownups everyday now. People at the supermarket telling people to go home."

Since Donald Trump wins, it is big, big change. It's getting worse. I probably got a few people make fun of my accent, but we was all kids. But I've been watching grownups everyday now. People at the supermarket telling people to go home. Here at RISSE, you know, those pickle jars, we find one, somebody put the Koran -- the holy book for Muslim people -- inside that jar and peed in it and closed it and put it right inside the door for us. So when we came in the morning we found it sitting right there. And he wrote on it "I hate Muslims." And this was five months ago. There is nothing we can do, just pray to God that everybody stays safe and that ideas change.

Some people told me to go back to my country when they heard I had an accent. I said maybe if I was here 50 years ago you wouldn't be telling me this, because you just get here before I get here. It doesn't make any sense.

People just need to see what people can do. They have a lot of talent. Instead of showing them hate, just try to hug 'em in, and trust me, it would work perfect because those are the most wonderful, loving people.
____

More Finding Refuge
+ Finding Refuge: Niebiha

Comments

What a smart, kind young man. It is so refreshing to see a story about a young person doing good.

Thank you AOA for providing a space to share these stories.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

The week ahead

Here are a few things to keep in mind, look forward to, or keep busy with this week, from the weather (sizzle), to the stage,... (more)

A quick recap of the week

Here are a few highlights from the past short week on AOA... + A breakdown of how Albany's mayor gets selected by just a small... (more)

Today's moment of autumn

Sunflower -- and sun. Enjoy the beautiful weekend.... (more)

Night of the Walking Red V

The League of Extraordinary Red Heads will once again gather at Ryan's Wake in Troy on October 4 for The Night of the Walking Red.... (more)

Troy history walking tours: Uncle Sam, ghost signs, wild women, mayhem

The Rensselaer County Historical Society has a handful of Saturday morning walking history walking tours of Troy coming up over the next few weeks. The... (more)

Recent Comments

Imagine if a mixed use development - apartments, townhouses, restaurants, offices, a park - were built on the Rensselaer riverfront, and people on both sides could go to work and go out in either Albany or Renss, just by walking to a gondola station? If people had reason to traverse the Hudson - in both directions - for a reason other than commuting or getting to/from the train station, a gondola could be an awesome (and financially self-sustaining) idea, that also cuts down on the need for parking. ...

They Might Be Giants at The Egg

...has 1 comment, most recently from Ewan

Night of the Walking Red V

...has 1 comment, most recently from BS

Stuff to do this weekend

...has 3 comments, most recently from Megan M

The Playdium redevelopment! Downtown residential! Neighborhood critics! And more exciting tales of the Albany planning board

...has 18 comments, most recently from grandmastergus

Checking out 5 Wits at Crossgates, and other Capital Region escape rooms

...has 5 comments, most recently from Lee