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Sudanese refugee recounts experiences at AAUW breakfast

Martha Akech spoke on May 5 at the annual Issues at Breakfast hosted by the Skaneateles Branch of the American Association of Women at the Skaneateles Country Club.

Martha Akech spoke on May 5 at the annual Issues at Breakfast hosted by the Skaneateles Branch of the American Association of Women at the Skaneateles Country Club.

— “The UN came. They brought food, shelters, clothes. A lot of people were dying. Some of the Lost Boys and Girls stayed in Ethiopia. We stayed there three years. It was starting to feel normal. The girls stayed in homes with women who had children of their own. We were missing our parents. Trouble struck again. The Ethiopian government was corrupt; a new person was in power. We were forced back.

“We were walking back toward Sudan — no food, your room was a tree. The UN came. That was a salvation. Big planes dropped the food. Life was normal again. Then bombing again, constant fear, the elders decided we have to leave again, still the same problems, nowhere was safe.

“Finally we made it to Kenya. We were in Kenya for nine years. We started education there; we learned a few English words; it felt like home. I was now 15. In Sudan culture at that age you are a woman. An older man came and said he wanted to marry me. It didn’t feel like that was a good thing to do.

“I’m going to try to go to school. We learned that the Lost Boys could come to the United States; girls were not the first priority. The girls said, ‘maybe we should try.’ We brought this to the attention of the UN. Girls who could stand up for themselves made it to America. We did the process and it was successful. At the end of 2000 my sister and I were settled in Seattle with a family.”

Martha told of the amazement she and Tabitha experienced when they arrived at the Seattle airport and ate their first meal, soup. “We were so hungry but we were accustomed to eating only bread, beans, lentils and occasionally beef. If it’s not one thing it’s another — now we are in America you have to get used to the food,” she said.

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