A fisherman’s dream from Somalia to Alaska

Post Date: Jun 9th, 2012 | Categories: Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | COMMENT

The people I work with are refugees. They come to Hong Kong to seek protection from the atrocities in their homeland.  They arrive with a big weight on their shoulders and pain in their guts, hoping for a better life from the one they left behind. Refugees are not recognized in Hong Kong.  This means they will never be integrated into Hong Kong society, unable to work or study. Refugees are most often resettled to a third country, United States, Canada or Sweden where they are welcomed and able to start their lives again.  But this process of resettlement can take a staggering 5 years plus. So they wait, doing their best to have their basic needs met.

I have had the privilege of working with the refugee community since 2004. I love my job. I work with people from all over the world – Somalia, Rwanda, Georgia, Iran, Congo, Egypt just to name a few. I see them arrive in such bad shape, carrying the trauma they have endured. Over time I witness their transformation into empowered individuals, ready to contribute and participate in society. It’s a pleasure to be part of this journey. With each individual I work with, I learn something; I too, grow from the experience. And I do my best to keep in contact with all of them once they are resettled and start their new life. One refugee who I keep in contact with is Geedan.  I met him in 2007 when I was working at Christian Action.  Geedan came to Hong Kong to seek protection from the troubles he and his family endured in Somalia. He always carried a smile and a positive attitude, no matter the circumstance. He was so determined to learn English that he would come into my office most days to share his stories. He would tell me about his family; his love for karate and the kindness he felt towards the people who were helping him restart his life.

I remember the day the UNHCR announced they would resettle him. He was told he was moving to Las Vegas. I thought what is a Somalian shopkeeper/farmer going to do in Las Vegas? But, the refugee community is so resourceful, determined and ready to start their lives again – nothing will stop them. Within a month of his arrival, Geedan applied for a job as a cleaner in a large hotel. He worked hard but the pay was low.  He was eager to have his family join him as soon as he can afford their arrival. Through his new community, Geedan learned of a way to make better money. He applied for a job as a fisherman which would relocate him this month to Codova, Alaska.  We have spoken often since the move.  He is delighted to have his new job and he looks forward to boarding the boat to start his new life as a Somali fisherman in Alaska. The people I work with are refugees. But not forever! They tread through the difficulties that face them. Not giving up, they are determined to start their lives again. They are strong, stronger than most people I know. With a little support they can shine and just look at that smile Geedan is wearing. I love my job! – Danielle (Centre Manager)



  1. Go Geedan! May the winds be favorable! May the waters be flat and the fish jump into your net!
    From fishing misery in Chung King Mansion to fishing King Crab in Alaska – oh man, make us proud 🙂

  2. &_Samuel_&

    Probably more should be done for refugees in Hong Kong. At last count there were few more than 100 and the government is doing what to improve their life? I follow their plight on your site and wonder what the community can do to pressure immigration department to issue them temporary working visas so fathers can take care of families with the dignity they deserve. What needs to be done to usher in change? Thank you Danielle. Thank you Vision First for your exemplary service to Hong Kong.

  3. the dilemma is: do we celebrate the victory of one or do we morn the defeat of many. With all due respect to your Somalian friend, what did he do to overcome his suffering? Wasn’t he instead born with the right passport (or lack of one in the case of Somalia)? What happens to the other 42,000,000 unfortunate refugees whose hopes are relentlessly extinguished by poverty, prejudice and policy? Go for it Geedan! Pity those left behind!

  4. sally

    well,I see hope again however most of the times it is impossible.I’m happy for him and I hope a better life for all refugees in the the world.

  5. Kathy Chow

    What a wonderful story. I’m also imagining the changes this man has experienced, from Somalia, to Hong Kong, to Las Vegas, to Codova Alaska. I hope he is happy at last. Thank you, Danielle, for your passion and dedication. You are doing an excellent job for the whole community. K H Chow

  6. brotherhood

    From the heat of Somalia to the freezing conditions of Alaska. Life is full of surprises and nobody can guess what will happen next year. You look very happy, Geedan. Keep safe and pray for those left behind – thank you.

  7. Ibrahim 59

    Congratulations Geedan! We prayed at Kowloon Mosque for many years together. We shared our hopes and dreams. I am happy you have made it out of the oppressive misery of Hong Kong refugee life. We hear about many Somali refugees leaving for United States and Canada while other nationalities are left behind. Why does the UNHCR favor Somali people? Why are many others left behind? Every year twenty refugees leave Hong Kong and 80% are from one country – why are we left behind? What future do we have here without work, without family, without hope and dreams? Why doesn’t the government allow us to work? Why should refugees beg to survive?
    I’m happy for you, my friend Geedan. Too bad we can never meet again.