On this week’s show, I speak with Colby College anthropology professor Catherine Besteman. She has spent her career studying Somali society, both in Somalia and here in Maine, where many Somalian refugees have begun new lives after escaping civil war at home. Catherine explains the causes of that war and the violence it created, particularly for minority ethnic groups. Her explanation of why Somalis had to flee helps us appreciate that every refugee is dealing with trauma.
This week I speak with Alice, an asylee from Burundi who now lives in Maine. She talks about her work in both countries to support and empower women who have faced cultural silencing and endured trauma. Together we explore ways that refugees might be connected with therapists who can help them tell the painful stories they need to document in order to apply for asylum.
This week I speak with Anna, who escaped Syria while 8 months pregnant in 2013 and now lives in Maine. She talks about trading the daily threat of bombings and kidnappings for a life of uncertainty as she and her husband applied and waited for asylum. She offers insight about what it means to really feel safe, and helps us better understand the plight of millions of Syrian refugees who are desperate for a chance to live in peace.
This is a particularly intense interview about one woman’s narrow escape from Burundi, after she and her mother gave medical aid to an injured protester. She describes their arrest and interrogation prior to coming to the United States, and what it is like to be here, having never planned to leave her life and dreams behind.
(Please note that there are explicit references to sexual violence in this episode.)
We begin a new series on refugee women in Maine with a conversation with Fatuma Hussein of United Somali Women of Maine. She describes the challenges of resettlement for refugees fleeing war in their native countries, which she experienced herself as a teenager. We talk about what kinds of help these new Mainers need to rebuild their lives, and how her organization collaborates with social service agencies to ease this overwhelming transition. She also addresses the presumption that refugees have a negative impact on the state’s economy and culture, and explains her vision for making Maine a more welcoming place of refuge.