Refugee finds new home

Olivia Farmer


Staff Writer

Baldwin-Whitehall School District is home to the largest number of international refugees in the region. In the third of a series, senior Ayouba Sheriff tells his story. When civil war struck the country of Liberia, many families were forced to seek refuge in camps located in nearby Sierra Leone.

My name is Ayouba Sheriff. I was born in Guinea, but my family is from the country Liberia. I lived in Guinea for a short period of time before my family and I moved back to Liberia.
After we returned, civil war broke out and my family and I were forced to live in a refugee camp in the neighboring country, Sierra Leone.
In the camp we lived in brick buildings that were located close to a jail. We didn’t have a front door until a few weeks after we moved in.
No one had cars in the camp, but everything was relatively close so we walked everywhere, including school.
I attended a public school where we had to wear uniforms. It was very strict, and getting hit was a common punishment for being late or misbehaving.                                                                                           For lunch and recess my friends and I would leave school, walk home, and then return later to continue the rest of the school day.
We played a game in class where two students would go to the board, and whoever got the answer correct got to hit the other.
Outside of class, we played a lot of soccer. It is the most popular sport in Africa. Even though life in the camp was sometimes difficult, we always found a way to have fun.
In the camp there was a greater feeling of community than there is in the U.S. People did things like cook for everyone in the neighborhood. Life was harsh, so there was no point in being mean.
Once or twice a week the U.N. or Red Cross would come to the camp to bring food, and if you wanted food any other time you’d have to leave camp to get it.
My family and I finally moved to the United States when I was in the third grade. When we arrived it was December, and I had never experienced snow before.
In Africa it rarely rains and cold is considered 60 degrees, so we all had to get jackets and most of my family got sick too.
Snow was not the only big change I experienced when I arrived. School was a lot longer than I was used to and we didn’t have to wear uniforms.
Also, at my school in Sierra Leone we stayed in the same classroom all day. The cafeteria was outside or we ate at home.
Along with the changes at school I was introduced to many new sports. I continued my love of playing soccer here, but my brother and I also found a new love of wrestling a few years after we arrived.
My brother quickly became very good and was one of the top wrestlers in Pennsylvania. Both of our wrestling journeys ended when my brother broke his neck.
He only regained about 85 percent of the functions he lost, and he will still never run or wrestle again. My mom told me I had to quit, but I have been allowed to play soccer.
Even though my family went through a lot these past few years, I am very excited for my future. Back in Liberia we have universities, but it’s very rare to hear of people attending them.
I am currently looking at a local Penn State campus to pursue a career in physical therapy.