“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself you can overcome anything in your path. I hope that my story will inspire you to alway persevere.” – Omar Mohamed.
When Stars are Scattered is a graphic novel by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson. The experience of reading this graphic novel just did one thing for me: it amplified my attitude of gratitude by a huge scale! Just to read the true story of two brothers living in a refugee camp and experiencing their struggles on a daily life jsut made feel so extremely grateful and thankful of the comforts of life that I have, even as much as being able to write this piece out.
Omar and his brother Hassan were born in Somalia but had to flee to Dadaan Refugee Camp in Kenya at the age of four, where they spent the next fifteen years. This camp was described as an “open prison” because no one was allowed to leave. However, Omar was able to complete his primary and secondary schooling there.
While I won’t go into the details of the story, I wil mention that it was an eye opener in the sense that to experience the life of a refugee was a rather harrowing experience to go through. The challenge of not having your biological mother and being raised by a surrogate mother, the challenge of not even know who your father is, the challenge of wanting to make a better life for yourself and your younger brother, the challenge of being able to secure a place for your education and the challenge of being able to secure your way out to a foreign country to be able to live a “normal” life.
Omar goes through all of this and some more.
Here are a few chapters from the book to give you an idea of the kind of illustrations used to tell the story.
Friends are made, like Nimo and Maryam, and friends are lost. Nothing is predictable at a refugee camp and each day is like a new adventure. Schooling is a challenge. Waiting to be called to leave the camp for a foreign contry proves to be frustrating. Omar also meets with a volunteer Susana Martinez, and through their friendship, is able to secure a place for him and his brother to leave the Refugee Camp.
Leaving the Refugee Camp is also a hard moment for Omar for he has to leave a life behind, and he is apprehensive about his future life. He eventually does make it to the United States, through the help of the United Nations.
Today, Omar is working with several charity organizations in Pensylvannia, where he is helping bring in refugees and resettling them in the United States.
Having said all of this, Omar’s story is something that is all about hope. Never does he give up on getting out of the camp to strive for a better life. His strength and resilience is what he is all about. He shows us that no matter how dire our circumstances are, how diffcult our moments are, we can all choose to make a choice for ourselves.
Hopeful, engaging and uplifting.