Success is achievable

Shamso Hashi
Shamso Hashi
Photo By: Dymanh Chhoun
Interviewing Hashi and hearing her story, I’ve come to understand even better the daunting challenges faced by immigrants – and to appreciate more fully the opportunities I have living in the United States. Immigrants make enormous sacrifices to gain the opportunities most of us living in this country take for granted. I am now even more determined to seize these opportunities and strive to accomplish my goals. -- Asma Adam

My name is Shamso Ali Hashi. I grew up in a small city outside Mogadishu. I finished high school there. I got married young and had 11 children in total. Six passed away and five are alive.

My name is Shamso Ali Hashi. I grew up in a small city outside Mogadishu. I finished high school there. I got married young and had 11 children in total. Six passed away and five are alive. I came to America in 2006, April 20. My sons are 23, 21, 19, 17, and 15. Three of them go to college and two go to high school.

In Somalia I did many different jobs. I used to work in the main spaghetti factory in the city. I was a secretary and used to write salaries (paychecks) for employees in the government.

If Somalia was like how it was before the war, we would be a very strong country, maybe even powerful like the Western nations. Our country has great temperature, not too hot or cold. It had fertile soil and produced lots of agriculture. We exported bananas, mangos, papaya, and lemons.

We had colleges and universities for students. People who had money sent their kids abroad to study. We had manufacturing factories and banks. Educated people usually worked in the business sector.

The day the fighting began

The war started on December 30, 1990. I was working at the pasta factory when it happened. At 1 p.m. in the afternoon, we saw the city literally burning up in flames and people beating each other up. I was stuck in the factory and only God knows how I survived. Many people were dead. I came home and thought maybe it would stop. We stayed three days and nothing changed. We ran for our lives.

We moved from our town and went to Kismaayo (another city in Somalia), then to Ethiopia. There were a lot of struggles on the way but luckily we avoided gunfire. Where it normally took two hours to drive, it took us five to six days. Everyone was leaving who could get out. Some lost their kids, and others were in constant fear.

Cooking to survive

Since I was a mother and cooked for my household, I decided to just open a restaurant. All Somali girls when they’re young learn how to work in the household and do things like cook and clean. I used my experience and what I was good at and until now I’m in the industry. I’m like a professional.

In Ethiopia, I opened a restaurant. My kids, husband and I worked there. Our restaurant thrived and people used to buy a lot from us.

Life in Ethiopia got hard so we moved to Kenya. In Kenya, I did the same things. I started selling vegetables and fruits, and my kids used to go to school. When people leave their country and have nowhere to go, they can’t choose what they want to do. Whatever life throws at you, you have to do accommodate and do whatever you can. We stayed in Kenya for ten years.

Shamso Hashi Born: Afgoove, Somalia Residence: Minneapolis Moved to Minnesota: 2006 Current job: Co-owner of a catering business specializing in Somali and American food What do you miss about home? I miss the familiarity and living style of Somalia. Everyone knew one another and always helped each other out. People here are friendly but it isn’t like back home. Also, the weather of Somalia was beautiful. Advice to someone moving to Minnesota: Minnesota is very welcoming towards immigrants. The United States offers a lot of opportunities and for immigrants willing to work hard, success is achievable.

Adapting to America

When we came to America, I didn’t know the language at all. My sons were better because they understood everything. The schools in Kenya are taught in English so it was easier for them. As for me, I quickly enrolled in a school and also started working. I still go to school. I speak decent English now. I understand most of it. I fill out my own paperwork.

If someone strives to do well, they will accomplish what they want. If you just expect to always depend on others and don’t make the effort, you will never make it anywhere. There are a lot of opportunities in this country for those who take advantage of them.

Now I am a co-owner of a small catering business named SomAmerica. We make a lot of Somali traditional food as well as American food.

My sons are very good. The three older ones started at Roosevelt High School and now they attend St. Paul College. The younger ones still attend Roosevelt High School. We are all fine.

I pray Somalia returns to its original or even a better country than it was. I hope the Somali people make peace and realize what is important and in their interest. I hope Somalia has a just government lead by educated people. I hope the groups who are causing problems now are stopped and that a government with educated people in both secular and religious studies has control of the country.

I want the people in America to know that Somalis are good people. There are good and bad people everywhere. Most of us are hard workers. Most people own businesses to make a living. A lot of the youth are students. I hope that some day soon many Somali girls and boys who have majored in different things like engineering are part of the community. Most are trying to be educated and benefit from the opportunities of this country.