Shamsa Idle (left) and Lily Saenz (right) have plenty in common. Shamsa came to the United States from Somalia in the mid-’90s and Lily emigrated from El Salvador in 1989. Both fled their country’s civil wars for a chance at a better life. Both were nurses back home and are studying to be nurses again. They’re best friends, and both are convinced better days are coming. I spoke to them during my stop on Wednesday at Minneapolis Community & Technical College.
Shamsa is pursuing child development courses and sees the value of early childhood education, something Americans take for granted. The lack of it is one of the reasons her country is at war with itself. “They are fighting because they have no education . If they get education early like Americans, the base is already built. If they have no early childhood education, the child is learning outside and nobody teaches in a positive way how to interract with others. Here, (it) is a big country and people live safe because they listen to each other,” she says.
Lilly and her husband moved to Los Angeles first and then to Minnesota. “It’s been a very tough journey, especially in the first years. We lived in Los Angeles for two years, and moved to Minnesota in 1991 without knowing what a wonderful people they are.”
She works with Way to Grow, a school readiness program.
It’s true, the present economy is nothing like surviving a civil war and moving your family to another country, but both have nothing but sympathy for growing victims of a dying economy.
“I see my co-workers getting laid off,” Shamsa says. “We have to be patient. If we work together and be patient, we can improve. America, 40 or 50 years ago, I want to go back to that. I think they will create more jobs. I love this country. Education is free in America. Even if you’re not working, you can get benefits to get a degree to get another job.”
Both received scholarships in December from the MCTC Foundation. Both are looking to pay it back in their own way. “I see that enthusiasm and determination on so many areas, not just the immigrant community. What we’re facing right now, we can move on if we help each other, if we think of different ways to work. We need time, we need to help each other, there are people who are helping us and hopefully they will see the fruit — in the future we can help somebody else,” Lily said.