My name is Ayisha Munsey, I am a young woman who was born in a small village called Shalla in Oromo Arsi. I grew up being extremely close to my maternal grandmother and two siblings while living a simple existence. I grew up living in a mud hut, played in the long grasses and made my own dolls out of corn husks. I was very happy even though we didn’t have many material things. Rural living was sometimes hard but my grandmother worked to give us the best life that she could. In August of 2006, my siblings and I were attending a Christian school in Arsi Negele when I was told we were being adopted. I did not know what that meant until August of 2007. I boarded a plane with my siblings heading to America where my fate was already decided for me.
Upon arriving in Utah, my sister was separated from us and adopted into another family. My brother and I went with a man and woman we did not know and who did not speak our language or us theirs. This was a very frightening and confusing time in my life. Things did not go well from the initial meeting with my adoptive parents. I found myself living in a state of shock for many months as I was worried about what was happening to my sister. I struggled to understand spoken directions, food choices and what was expected of me. Please and thank yous were my only English words. Over the next few years many social workers would visit the house who were supposed to help us, but with language barriers it was almost impossible. No one understood my need for contact with my biological family. The more I longed for anything Ethiopian the more problematic the emotional division became at home. This is where I feel staying connected is vital for any child that comes from another country especially where biological family connections existed.
School became my beacon of hope. It was also a way to make my grandmother proud. I learned English and started to run while in middle and high school with some success in track and cross country. My love of running gave me the escape I needed. I considered it free therapy as it was the only thing I had control over. Wanting to mentor, I joined in school activities and became a G Crew Leader, helping incoming freshman adjust to high school life. I was also a Track Captain and was expected to be a role model to younger athletes. Over the years, I have been connected to the Mormon church as a Young Women’s Leader and performed community service with the elderly, food drives and community clean up. At the same time I have retained my connection with the Ethiopian church and remained true to my Ethiopian roots in all that I do. In 2015 I started my college career and was also a track and cross country runner for Cuyamaca College. Education is everything to me and I promised myself to get a college degree no matter how difficult it might be. I am proud to say I am an independent full-time college student, who has successfully finished her second year. Joining the Black Student Union is a way to help African students have a voice and connect to their culture. I am also a part of the Know Your Rights Club that focuses on helping youth avoid police brutality. Currently, I hold a par time position in the Health Office on campus that exposes me to a lot of cultural events.
These activities help me grow and be aware of society. I am doing everything possible to succeed in school and life, so I can grow as a person and make a positive difference. With a family life that was dysfunctional and resulted in divorce, along with another sibling separation I know life is unpredictable. Due to all I have faced since coming to the United States, I hope to become a CASA ( Court Appointed Special Advocate) one day and help other Ethiopian children in foster and adoptive situations. Helping children or families remain connected to their culture and not having to wait years to reconnect like I did. Finally, after almost 10 years I visited my biological family in May of 2016. I cannot describe to you the emotions that I felt seeing the faces that I love and the village I grew up in. The happiness of sharing time with them and the sadness of learning of those who passed away before I returned. Life in America has not been easy for me, but I am blessed to have both cultures now and the experiences have only made me a stronger person. Many adopted children experience the same sense of loss I felt over the years, but have no outlet to turn to. I am motivated to succeed in life and hopefully one day I will be a part of a successful organization that will include my sister, who aims to be a humanitarian/social worker helping children in traumatic situations. At the age of 18 my brother has returned to the homeland he left at the age of 9. He is relearning to speak his native language while serving a on mission. Nothing would be greater than to connect with my siblings and other people who share a platform to keep Ethiopian children in foster and adoptive situations safe. Connecting them to their heritage allows them to be proud of both cultures without feeling conflicted. Building strong community ties and being proud of their Ethiopian heritage should be a given for all displaced children.