One of the most dangerous places for a young boy is in the Horn of Africa. A whole generation of youth was drafted to fight one of the deadliest wars on the planet when a border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia broke out in 1998.
In three years more than 100,000 soldiers died in that war. Eritrea still continues to exploit its young men by enlisting them in the military — for life.
“I left Eritrea because of the political situation and the endless national service that is required in the military,” said Samson W. Ghilu, 30, who now resides in Fort Worth, Texas. “I was in the service for four years. Even though the war ended in 2001, we’ve been made to serve the military, working for free. So every year, a new generation of young men is forced to serve in the military with no pay.”
Ghilu remembers the grueling work in the army that ultimately made him leave his nation.
“It is hard to live. Soldiers are not in their home, they don’t get married, they can’t go to school, and they don’t work,” said Ghilu. “But most of all, they can’t go back home.”
Ghilu sought refuge in Ethiopia, arriving in a refugee camp in 2006. There he worked with the International Rescue Committee, serving as a social worker and mobilizing the community. After a year and four months, Ghilu was selected by camp officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office to receive an Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative scholarship to study at an Ethiopian university.
“I studied business administration, with a major in accounting,” said Ghilu. “After one year, I went to the government university to ask them to let me pursue a master’s degree on my previous degree from Asmara University in Eritrea.”
Education was his salvation. He eventually was resettled by World Relief in North Texas, where he enjoys life and its affordable cost of living. World Relief receives various grants from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to help resettle refugees.
Ghilu dreams of getting a doctorate and knows paying for higher education in the United States is not so easy.
“I want to do a Ph.D. in public health,” said Ghilu, who works as a case worker for World Relief and cultural ambassador at Catholic Charities.
High tuition rates, though, will not deter his goals. Ghilu firmly believes that if he could survive a refugee camp, he can take on higher education. Anything is possible in America.
For more information on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/.
Founded on the belief that newly arriving populations have inherent capabilities when given opportunities, the Office of Refugee Resettlement provides people in need with critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled approximately 2.6 million refugees. Today, the U.S. takes in more refugees than all other countries combined. In Fiscal Year 2010, ORR provided more than 101,000 refugees with resettlement assistance. Only less than half of one percent of the refugees in the world (around 62 million) gets resettled. For more information, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/index.html