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  • This is me at age seven.

  • And this is also me.

  • (Applause and cheering)

  • To be standing here in Kakuma refugee camp feels so surreal,

  • and I'm overcome with so much emotion.

  • These very grounds are where I was born

  • and spent the first seven years of my life.

  • I think many people are surprised to hear

  • that I had a great upbringing here at Kakuma.

  • But I was happy,

  • I was smart, I had friends

  • and above all, I had hope for a brighter future.

  • That's not to say that we didn't have our obstacles.

  • I mean, boy were there struggles.

  • I would sometimes get sick with malaria

  • and didn't always know where our next meal would come from.

  • But the sense of community that is here in Kakuma

  • and the pride that everyone here possesses

  • is simply unparalleled.

  • When I was younger, I remember conflicts breaking out.

  • That tends to happen when people come from different backgrounds

  • and don't speak the same language.

  • Eventually, Swahili --

  • the main language here --

  • became our common ground.

  • I made friends with the kids at the camp

  • and even started embracing some of their cultures,

  • celebrating holidays like Christmas even though I was raised Muslim.

  • The other kids would embrace my culture as well,

  • sometimes even praying right alongside me.

  • It was easy, as children, to come together,

  • blend all of our beliefs

  • to form our own unique, multicultural environment.

  • My name is Halima Aden

  • and I'm a black, Muslim, Somali-American from Kenya.

  • (Applause)

  • Some have called me a trailblazer --

  • I was the first Muslim homecoming queen at my high school,

  • the first Somali student senator at my college

  • and the first hijab-wearing woman in many places,

  • like the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant,

  • the runways of Milan and New York Fashion Weeks

  • and even on the historic cover of British "Vogue."

  • As you can see,

  • I'm not afraid to be the first, to step out on my own,

  • to take risks and seek change,

  • because that's what being a minority is about.

  • It's about using yourself as a vessel to create change

  • and being a human representation for the power of diversity.

  • And now I use my platform to spread an important message of acceptance.

  • But it hasn't always been easy.

  • When we first arrived to the United States and made St. Louis, Missouri home,

  • I remember asking my mom, "Is this really America?"

  • There were things that were sadly familiar,

  • like hearing gunshots at night

  • and the streets looking impoverished.

  • But there were things that were also very different.

  • Like when I started first grade,

  • I noticed how the kids played in groups.

  • In America, we call them "cliques."

  • Back here, we all played together.

  • Gender didn't matter,

  • and race most certainly never mattered.

  • I remember asking myself,

  • "Why don't they understand Swahili?

  • Swahili is the language that brings people together."

  • To make matters worse,

  • the school I was enrolled in didn't have an English immersion program.

  • So everyday I would get up,

  • go to school, sit in my desk

  • and never learn a thing.

  • This is when I started losing hope,

  • and I wanted nothing more than return to Kakuma,

  • a refugee camp.

  • Soon, my mother learned that many Somalis found refuge

  • in a small town in Minnesota.

  • So when I was eight, we moved to Minnesota.

  • My life changed as I met other students who spoke Somali,

  • attended a school that had an English immersion program

  • and found teachers that would go above and beyond,

  • staying there after school hours and lunch breaks,

  • dedicated to helping me find success in the classroom.

  • Being a child refugee has taught me that one could be stripped of everything:

  • food, shelter, clean drinking water,

  • even friendship,

  • but the one thing that no one could ever take away from you

  • is your education.

  • So I made studying my top priority

  • and soon started flourishing within the classroom.

  • As I grew older, I became more aware of others

  • and how they viewed my race and background.

  • Specifically, when I started wearing the head scarf known as a hijab.

  • When I first started wearing it, I was excited.

  • I remember admiring my mother's, and I wanted to emulate her beauty.

  • But when I started middle school,

  • the students teased me about not having hair,

  • so to prove them wrong,

  • I started showing them my hair --

  • something that goes against my beliefs, but something I felt pressured to do.

  • I wanted so badly to fit in at the time.

  • When I reflect on the issues of race, religion, identity,

  • a lot of painful memories come to mind.

  • It would be easy for me to blame those of another culture

  • for making me feel the pain I felt,

  • but when I think deeper,

  • I also recognize that the most impactful,

  • positive, life-changing events that have happened to me

  • are thanks to those people who are different than me.

  • It was at this moment that I decided to step outside of my comfort zone

  • and compete in a pageant wearing a hijab and burkini.

  • I saw it as an opportunity to be a voice for women

  • who, like myself, had felt underrepresented.

  • And although I didn't capture the crown,

  • that experience opened so many doors for me.

  • I was receiving emails and messages from women all over the world,

  • telling me that I've inspired them by simply staying true to myself.

  • The other "firsts" kept coming.

  • I was invited to New York City by fashion icon Carine Roitfeld

  • to shoot my very first editorial.

  • It was around this time that I became the first hijab-wearing model,

  • and in my first year,

  • I graced the covers of nine fashion magazines.

  • It was a whirlwind, to say the least.

  • But with all the overnight success,

  • there was one thing that remained constant --

  • the thought that this could be what brings me back here to Kakuma,

  • the place that I call home.

  • And just a few months ago, something incredible happened to me.

  • I was in New York City, on a photo shoot,

  • when I met South Sudanese model Adut Akech,

  • who also happened to be born right here in Kakuma.

  • That experience in itself is the definition of hope.

  • I mean, just imagine:

  • two girls born in the same refugee camp,

  • reunited for the first time on the cover of British "Vogue."

  • (Applause and cheering)

  • I was given the distinct pleasure of partnering up with UNICEF,

  • knowing firsthand the work that they do for children in need.

  • And I want you to remember

  • that although the children here may be refugees,

  • they are children.

  • They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream --

  • to be successful.

  • My story began right here in Kakuma refugee camp,

  • a place of hope.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

This is me at age seven.

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B1 US TED refugee hijab refugee camp camp somali

【TED】Halima Aden: How I went from child refugee to international model (How I went from child refugee to international model | Halima Aden)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2018/09/20
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