My name is Cheick O. Diawara. I am 26 years old and born in Yopougon, Ivory Coast, Africa. In 2010, I got approved by the United States embassy in Mali for a visa to seek refuge in the United States, following my mom and siblings. This immigration would change my life and rescope my vision.
Shortly after that historic day at the American embassy, I remember filling up with an unconditional happiness, staring at my new passport containing my most pleasant photo and the visa. I felt like gold. Uncut, unpolished, brute gold waiting in the mud, for a life in America. Its late 2010, my big dream is becoming a reality. I landed at the Minneapolis/St. Paul international airport where two white immigration officers checked my passport and handed it back with my I-94 authorized entry slip. Waiting for me at the gate were my mom, sister, and brother, whom I have not seen for 3 long nostalgic years; they greeted me with huge hugs of happiness and joy–I am home again. The home I grew to love in Africa is dead in the face of my new home in America. I see my new life in colors–a big beautiful world with big paved roads covered with shiny cars and white humans… Life. Early on, my mother took me to apply for my social security card, enroll in school, and learn to drive a car. Following my immigration path, I had my biometric appointment about a year later and I received my green card thereafter—finally a document that says I belong.
Life keeps changing for me and it has been challenging. My attempt to follow religion (Islam, one of mother’s fundamental advice), takes a change that radically turned my life backward, which traumatized my mother and my siblings. At this time, I flew back to Africa to visit my Christian father, talked with him, and realized that I am born to be free and to a life that is abundant. The sudden realization that I am sacrificing my life, dream, freedom, and happiness for a way of life, becomes utterly shocking. For the second time, I am boldly eager for life and the pursuit of happiness. However, I still had trouble adjusting to this new life and encountered some dramatic life events. The feeling of freedom caused me to have thoughts of no religion. I fearlessly (and mindlessly) rode my high horse through life for the thrill but drama quickly followed. I managed to graduate from Minneapolis Southwest high (class of 2013), and incurred an “UNCHARACTHERIZED DISCHARGE” from the Minnesota Army National Guard. Within the next 6 months, I found myself homeless and had a failed attempt at the Hubert Humphrey job corps with an unsuccessful overnight warehouse job. I fell into drug addiction, a psychological break down, and the loss of all my immigration documents (passport, social security card, driver’s license, and green card were in my backpack which was stolen). I incurred some minor infractions that led to jail time and I ended up on probation where I met an amazing agent/probation officer who told me about Immigrant Hope–Bloomington.
Immigrant Hope—Bloomington is a local nonprofit organization helping immigrants. While broken, I made an appointment and worked with Ben Johnson to help me attain my stolen documents. Immigrant Hope–Bloomington provided services to help me get back the hope that I lost and inspired me to change my life. They have helped me replace my green card successfully, which enables me to replace my social security card and other identification cards, all free of charge. I am currently getting help applying for my citizenship. One day, I hope to be a doctor in science.
My immigration to the United States has been educational and life changing. I feel blessed to come into the United States from Africa. As easy as it sounds, this process can be challenging. Thanks to Immigrant Hope—Bloomington, I am able and confident again in my life. I recommend them to others for the quality work and interest they put in my case. Since writing this, Immigrant Hope—Bloomington dug into my past discretions and determined that it would be best that I strive to show that while my past has of errors in judgement and encouraged me to build a positive life going forward before applying for citizenship. Matt and Zee stimulated me to find a job, establish a good record and to keep in touch. They really care about the choices I’m about to make and I keep in contact and update them on my progress. I’m happy to report that I’ve secured a job and I plan to perform my duties to the best of my abilities. I’ve even purchased a car so I can transport myself to work and ease the burden I’ve created on my mom. I’m blessed and I plan to continue on this path, as I’m fully aware of the consequences of the other path I was on. Thank you, Ben, Matt and Zee at Immigrant Hope—Bloomington!