My culture keeps me grounded

Kevin Nah

Arriving to a new country can be a hard adjustment for many people. At times it so easy to lose your own culture trying to adapt to your new surroundings. My family’s story is similar to those of most immigrants because it involves leaving a place you called home in the hope that you may find opportunities to a better future. At the end of the day no matter how hard it was for my family and I, holding on to our culture made everything feel a little better.

My family and I are from Liberia, which is located on the west coast of Africa. I was born at Catholic Hospital in Monrovia, the country’s capital, right in the middle of the Liberian Civil War. During these terrible times, there were many military and civilian casualties. Rebel groups used child soldiers, and many people struggled to find food, shelter and even access to education.

Sadly, my parents had a front row view of all the terrible things that had become part of everyday life. As you can imagine, leaving the country was the only option given the state our community was in. Recently, my dad told me the story of how he and my mom saved money to ride a ship that was leaving the country. Unfortunately, that plan did not work out. So we has to wait until 1999 that my parents and I were able to get on a plane that was heading to the United States America. I do not remember much about the flight over because I was only two years old. My younger brother was born in August of that year.

Growing up I didn't know much about our life in Liberia. One day I come across a picture of my first birthday party in our family album. I recognized a couple of my aunts, but the room did not look familiar. When I asked my parents about the picture they told me it was from the house we had lived in back home. Learning about my family’s culture made my childhood special, whether it was receiving traditional clothing from my aunt who still lives in Liberia, eating my mom’s palm butter soup with rice, or hearing stories about how my parents grew up. Experiencing these things helped me to find my identity and appreciate the family I had.

Now that I’m older, I understand the sacrifices my parents made for our family to have a better life. I realize that I am very fortunate to be where I am today and, I know that I have an opportunity to make a difference from where I am. I currently volunteer at a nonprofit organization in Plymouth, Minnesota called Uniting Distant Stars. Their mission is to provide vocational education to the youth of Liberia through courses such as tailoring, catering and cosmetology. I volunteer with the hope of giving back to place where my story began.