(2-24-04) First Bantu refugee arrives in the Midlands - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

(2-24-04) First Bantu refugee arrives in the Midlands

Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir Mohamed

(Columbia) Feb. 24, 2004 - The first Somalia refugee arrived in Columbia on Tuesday. Abdulkadir Mohamed left a refugee camp in Kenya about 30 hours earlier. The US State Department brought him to the United States. Lutheran Family Services took over when Mohamed arrived.

There was a snafu in the travel plans when Mohamed missed his connector flight from Newark, New Jersey, Tuesday evening. He picked up a flight to Cincinnati and arrived in Columbia around 10:20pm. He traveled with a State Department handler. They arrived about four hours later than planned.

He was welcomed by members of the Saint Andrews Lutheran Church, Columbia Mayor Bob Coble and some native Somali speakers. Greeters held up signs saying "Soo Dhawoow," which means welcome.

How you can help the Bantu settlement:

Provide transport to appointments
Tutor a child
Provide childcare while parents attend English classes
Provide multivitamins
Provide child's safety car seats
Provide personal hygiene supplies
Provide household cleaning supplies
Donate cash gifts for necessities
Donate gift certificates to grocery stores
Mohamed spoke to reporters through an interpreter. He knows there is a lot of work ahead, "I have first to study the life here before I do anything else. I want to work for my life, I want to rest and I want to help."

St. Andrews Lutheran Church will serve as Mohamed's sponsor. Parishioners will help the 22-year-old, who speaks a limited amount of English, by providing him with housing, food, companionship, clothing and other needs while he adjusts to the United States and finds a job. See what he can expect>>

Pastor John Trump says his congregation is ready to help someone in need, "We're curious because he might surprise us. He speaks English. For all we know he'll be more knowledgeable about America than we realize, so we're waiting for some surprises."

As early as Friday or Saturday the first family to be settled in the Midlands will be flying in. The five-member family - a man, his wife and three school age children - will be sponsored and cared for by Ebeneezer Lutheran Church.

The Bantus are a group of African Muslims with a history of enslavement and persecution. The State Department and a broad range of church groups are trying to help the persecuted people by bringing about 12,000 to 20 US cities over the next couple of years as part of one of the largest US resettlement efforts in recent history. Eventually 120 are expected to settle in the Columbia area.

Earlier this month Lutheran Family Services announced the agency has been assigned eight Bantu "cases." Each case represents at least one refugee, but usually each case involves a family unit of at least two refugees.

The first group of refugees identified for resettlement in the Midlands amounts to a total of at least 30 people. The Lutheran chapter predicted it would eventually be resettling 25 Bantu families in the Midlands.

So far, 42 faith groups and other organizations have volunteered to help. Fourteen local businesses have offered jobs for the adult refugees.

Contributions may be made out to "Lutheran Family Services." Please note "Somali Bantu Project" in the memo field. Checks and gift cards may be mailed to Somali Bantu Project, Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, PO Box 21728, Columbia SC 29221.

Questions about financial gifts and sponsorships: richard@lfs-sc.org
Questions about inkind donations and employment: swofford@lfs-sc.org

You can also call Lutheran Family Services at 803-750-9917 for more information.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie
Updated 10:43pm by Brett Witt

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