Surviving as a refugee in City Heights

Malou now helps other refugees adjust to a new life in City Heights

My Name is Majur Malou, and I am originally from the country of Sudan, formerly the largest country in  Africa. On July 9th, 2011 Sudan split into two nations – Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan has been a jungle of tragedies for more than 39 years because of war between the northern Sudan and south Sudan. A war that killed more than 1.9 million people.

In 1994, I was  accepted to the University of Juba, in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, to study economics and social studies. At the time, however, the current military government seized power through a coup and imposed Islamic law in the country, including upon Christians and other non-Muslims. Students protested against the government’s policies of Arabization and Islamization of the non-Muslim population. Other students and I were detained in military headquarters for nearly two months. During my detention, I was tortured night and day. All for simply expressing my political and Christian beliefs. Thankfully, with the intervention of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, I was released. I decided then to escape Sudan via the border with Eritrea, before landing in Ethiopia. From there I ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya, where I was interviewed by a U.S. immigration officer and was found to be eligible to be resettled in America. I now serve as executive director of the Episcopal Refugee Network and help refugees fleeing from such countries as Sudan, South Sudan, Myanmar/Burma adjust to life in America by aiding  them in their resettlement process.

I am now a U.S. citizen and a commercial pilot.

I came to the U.S. in June of 1995 and settled in San Diego. Coming to America was an exciting moment of my life, but I was vulnerable and unable to gain access to various services such as an education due to my limited English and lack of knowledge about Western cultural norms. I often was intimidated by the bureaucratic maze to access crucial services. For example, upon my arrival I decided to enroll in college and I did not understand how the system functions. I filled out a number of forms and completed a series of paperwork,  but it was a difficult process. In fact, it was the worst possible thing for someone like me to go through.

To get an idea of the challenge, say you were born and raised in America. Suddenly you have to leave behind your family, your friends, your belongings, and then find yourself in Moscow. You don’t know anyone there. You don’t speak Russian. You have no one to guide you through your resettlement process.

This is how life in America is for a refugee. Whether you are from Sudan, Somalia, Burma or Uganda — all of us went through some difficulties.

I now live and work here in City Heights,  a place where many refugees feel at home because of its diversity and affordable living — many of the homes made affordable because of nonprofits such as Price Charities. It is really a melting pot, and I feel good when I see other refugees like me.

In conclusion, even though we as refugees are faced with many challenges, we must have faith and strong self-esteem to overcome them. I strongly believe that success does not come through hoping and wishing, but through hard work. If we are to function as good citizens of this great city and country, then we must know what is good for us and what is bad and do always the good for our families, friends and our neighbors.

Majur Malou is a refugee from Sudan and current resident of City Heights. Malou is the executive director of the Episcopal Refugee Network