Where Should a New Kenyan Immigrant Find Help in the USA?
I was asked this question the other day by an acquaintance, and I am throwing it back to the larger Kenyan community.
There is nothing as traumatizing as moving to a new place; be it from the village to the city of Nairobi, or from the City of Nairobi to Seattle, Washington.
When one lands across the pond, the very first persons to welcome you are very key to your life henceforth. There is a very high possibility of ending up doing exactly what your hosts do.
If your host is a taxi driver, a nurse, a mechanic, a delivery guy, working in the store, academic, name it, you might find yourself gravitating to their line of career.
But what if after spending two weeks with the first host you are shown the door. I have heard stories of new persons given marching orders in the dead of the winter.
Sometimes the host will show you where to get the bus or train and take you once to the town’s jobs recruitment center. Then after that, you are left to your good luck and the angel of new immigrants, if he exists.
Therefore, there are in these fifty states, very bitter tales of new immigrants cursing the very day they got the almighty visa to come to the land of the hidden plenty.
Reports of depressed compatriots, suicidal thoughts, and spousal abuse abound. Couples who had lived in bliss back home suddenly find the order of the house is daily quarrels and bickering.
What about the couple where the husband was the sole bread winner. The house wife who had to beg for little change to buy monthly female essentials now is the first to get a paycheck. The tables are overturned.
The man, who was the Simba back home is now depending on his wife to pay bills, get some cash for Budweiser, or even loose change to buy a calling card.
“Mnafikiri pesa inaokotwa njiani!” The wife is heard repeating the same bitter words used by her husband not too long ago in Nairobi.
The center fails to hold, and as it were, things start to fall apart.
Friends are busy, people back home are asking for alms, it is now seven months, no job for our new immigrant. What next?
There doesn’t seem to be an organized mechanism by those who came earlier to welcome newcomers. Hold them by the hand, feed them like little babies, show them around.
Other large immigrant groups like the Latinos and Asians have close-knit societies. Because they have a longer immigration history, these communities have established underground methods of initiating newcomers.
Don’t get me wrong, many Kenyans really come to the aid of newcomers. I have seen people in church donate their furniture, cars, time and other resources to new families.
But there is that one person who falls in the cracks. That student who cannot keep two jobs and continue with school. That youngster who, after KCSE boards the next flight at the tender age of 19 to live alone in these states.
When eventually the college registrar reports the absence of the said student, he or she starts living in the shadows. Alcohol and drug abuse may follow, then life turns south by the day.
Ten years later, having exhausted all goodwill from community members, some in our community have committed suicide, or caused harm to others in the process.
We have a long way to go in terms of helping those who fall within the cracks. Granted, there are no simple solutions, neither can we force people to openly seek for help when life is unbearable.
We are socialized to face life as “men” not to cry, not to seek for help. We think asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Unfortunately when one of us falls into the sad life of hopelessness, he/she becomes an object of ridicule. Members of the community make that person the topic of discussionwhen there is a gathering of two.
This is just a wake up call. Seek out for help. Find organizations that assist immigrants in your state.
For the rest of us, seek out those in need. Offer genuine help without getting tired. Do you know of where a new immigrant might find help? Where can one turn to when the going gets tough? Where can one get assistance in case of depression, or suicidal thoughts? What about immigration issues? Share with us.
Help to lift one person from the abyss. The universe will be better for your kind deed.
By Mzee Moja | firstname.lastname@example.org