View the video here.
Naima Mohamed was born in Somalia during a period of civil war. Men were being forced to fight, many women were at risk of being assaulted, and a number of children were abandoned in the streets as people fled the conflict.
When Ms. Mohamed was 6 months old, her family sought refuge in Kenya, where they lived for 15 years. “I felt very helpless,” she said of her years in the refugee camp. “People were often desperate to meet basic needs.”
In conjunction with World Refugee Day on Monday, June 20, LDS Philanthropies—which encourages and facilitates philanthropic support for programs and charities affiliated with the Church— released a new video featuring Ms. Mohamed, who recounts the above experiences.
The video comes as part of a continued emphasis by the Church to reach out to refugees. In the wake of the recent migrant crisis throughout the Middle East and Europe, the First Presidency issued a letter in October 2015 to members of the Church encouraging them to donate to the Church Humanitarian Fund and inviting them to participate in local relief projects. Then in March 2016, the First Presidency and the general women’s auxiliary presidencies invited the women of the Church to participate in the “I Was a Stranger” refugee relief effort.
Becca Bentley-Mila, creative director for LDS Philanthropies, said releasing the new video on the international observance on June 20 served as an opportunity not only to remember the plight of the refugee, but also for members to consider the messages of the First Presidency.
LDS Philanthropies came across Ms. Mohamed’s story when working with Catholic Relief Services as well as the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “Naima’s story is just one of many. It illustrates the depth of goodness and the unconquerable spirit that is universal and God-given,” Sister Bentley-Mila said.
Looking through the lens of a refugee like Ms. Mohamed can help individuals recognize commonalities. Sister Bentley-Mila said when talking with Ms. Mohamed and her husband she realized they had the same dreams for their two young children as she did for hers. “The more we learn about refugees, the more we see ourselves in them,” she said.
Naima Mohamed reads a Stand Against Racism pledge in Swahili during a “Stand Against Racism” event at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 29, 2016. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
In the video, Ms. Mohamed describes feeling “frightened” and “lost” after being resettled in the United States and being placed in a formal education setting for the first time. Volunteers and teachers, however, mentored her and her sister. Eventually, she attended the University of Utah, where she received her bachelor’s degree and later her master’s degree. She now works as a social worker helping other refugees transition into a new country and a new culture.
The title of the video is “Be the Someone.” Just as Ms. Mohamed was blessed by mentors and now serves as a mentor to others, “we hope the message inspires people to make a difference, to ‘be the someone,’” Sister Bentley-Mila explained.
In the video, Ms. Mohamed tells viewers they can make a difference in a refugee’s life by being a friend or a mentor. “Show that you care,” she said.
“It doesn’t take a lot to ‘be the someone,’” Sister Bentley-Mila said. Both large and seemingly insignificant contributions can make a difference in someone’s life. “It’s considering where you are in the world and where your neighbor is and how you can come together.”
Sister Bentley-Mila said they hope to share more refugee stories with the “Be the Someone” theme. “The need is so great, it will continue to be an emphasis,” she said.
Naima Mohamed smiles at the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center in Salt Lake City, November 10, 2015; the center helps bridge the gap between a refugee’s initial job and the skills and training needed to earn a wage that will sufficiently provide for themselves and their family.