2013 Imagine Award honorees Amino and Kassim Muse
Amino’s story is at once exotic and quintessentially American. As a refugee from Somalia, Amino spent the better part of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya before being resettled in the United States at age 16. Unable to read and write even in her native language, Amino was enrolled in school for the first time as a 9th grader. She was in 10th grade when she married Kassim, another Somalian refugee, and relocated to Charlottesville. Amino was 18 when she became pregnant for the first time, and to their surprise, they turned out to be expecting twins.
Getting married and starting a family at such a young age would not be particularly remarkable in the culture Amino and Kassim were raised, but in Africa they would have had extended family support and been part of a familiar community. But 22 years of civil war have left their home country wrecked with violence, and robbed Amino and Kassim of the benefits of family, familiarity and stability.
CHiP stepped into the gap, providing Amino and Kassim with the information, support, and encouragement that would help them raise their new family successfully in their new country. In return, they have both showed determination to make the most of every opportunity.
Kassim has been working in landscaping at UVA for for several years, while Amino has been taking care of their 5 young children. Amino has a love for learning, but could not continue her education at Charlottesville High School due to her age and need for childcare. That did not stop her from learning to read and write and speak, now in two languages. She and Kassim studied hard and passed their citizenship test on the first try, and they express a great deal of gratitude for the good fortune to raise their children in this country.
Every day they press into their dream of creating a home where their children will never have to know the loss and fear they experienced growing up, a life full of opportunity with access to education and essential health care. They are truly living the American dream.