We Are America

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Photo ofAbdulai Jalloh

Ever since I was a little kid my dad always wanted me to come to the United States with him. I was born and raised in Sierra Leone. Growing up I was a wild child. By the time I was around 9 to 10 years old I would always be out hanging out with my friends, sometimes coming home late even though that used to upset my mom. I used to cause a lot of trouble and get into fights. So my dad decided that it was best for me to come live here in the United States with him. He had lived here since I was a baby and he would visit every few years, but we would talk a lot on the phone. He tried for years to bring us to the U.S., but it did not work. But that was okay with me since I did not want to come. I did not want to leave my mother and sister and I did not like traveling to new places because it made me anxious. 

When I was about 10 or 11 year old my dad again started the process for me and my sister to come to the United States. But then the Ebola epidemic came to my country in December, 2013. I remember how people thought it was not a big deal, just like how some people didn’t take the Coronavirus seriously. But many people began to die. I remembered that everywhere you went you would see handwashing stations and hand sanitizers. As the epidemic got worse schools closed. Some schools were closed for almost a year and that affected many kids' educations including me and my sister. My dad had us take classes at home.

But the Ebola epidemic still caused a big gap in our education. My parents did not want us to fall behind in our studies. He became determined to bring us to the U.S. Even though I still was not prepared to come. However the Ebola epidemic slowed down the process for applying to come to the United States.  At one point my parents lost hope, they started thinking there was no point for us to push on the process, but they still kept bringing us to the American Embassy and continued to do all the paperwork.  Months passed and we still had not heard back from the embassy. We went on with our lives. 

Even as we were continuing the process to come to the United States, I still did not want to go. But one afternoon my mother sat me down.  She told me that coming to the U.S was the best chance I had to improve on my studies and she told me that when I am done with my studies I would be able to see her again and everything would be the same as it was before. After we had that conversation, I for the first time changed my mind. I decided that it was the best choice for me and I made a promise to myself that I would work hard and study hard to be able to bring my mother to the United States one day. In the spring of 2016, the embassy called my dad for our last appointment. At the embassy me and my sister’s names were called. A lady gave us two big brown envelopes which held our Visas and told us, “Welcome to the United States!” 

Fast forward to today, 2021. I have lived in the U.S. for many years.  So far it has been a great experience. I kind of like it here now, I have many friends, and am also studying very hard to keep my promise. I have not seen my mother in person since I left Sierra Leone in so long even though we talk on the phone almost everyday. I still push myself to study hard everyday, even though it is hard not being with her. I know that deep down I will one day see her in person again.

© Abdulai Jalloh. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.