People who come to the United States to escape persecution in their home country often face two major adjustments: Life in a new country, and life—for the first time—in a major city. A farm in Illinois takes part in a program designed to ease that transition. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Lehman reports:
People who come to the United States to escape persecution in their
often face two major adjustments: Life in a new country, and life—for
time—in a major city. A farm in Illinois takes part in a program
designed to ease
that transition. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Lehman
The demons of torture were threatening to rob Thaddee Essomba of his
Essomba was a political activist in the West African nation of
Someone evidently didn’t share Essomba’s views, and they wanted to make
Essomba fled Cameroon, leaving behind his home, his family, and
knew. He didn’t stop running until he arrived in Chicago.
Chicago was unlike anything Essomba had ever seen. Skyscrapers,
complexes and elevated trains were all new to him. Miles and miles of
and asphalt surrounded him. Adjusting to life in the city was almost
as difficult as
adjusting to life in a new country. All this, while trying to recover
physical and psychological scars of torture.
Then, Thaddee Essomba discovered the farm.
(sound of farm fades in)
“For me to come here is really to go back to the source. Because when
you live in
the city, you know you get a little bit, you like to be in touch with
the nature. And
really I was missing that.”
(sound of goats)
The farm is called Angelic Organics. For the past decade it’s been
from the Marjorie Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture in Chicago.
helps people fleeing persecution to recover and re-settle in the United
People come to the center from all over the world. Many of them are
areas and aren’t used to living in a city.
Tom Spaulding is a former volunteer at the Kovler Center. He now works
Angelic Organics Farm. He says a visit to the farm can be a key stop
on the road
to recovery for torture victims.
“They’re living now in Chicago in a huge metropolitan area, and they’re
backgrounds, and some of them are farmers. And to be on a farm that’s
like what they were used to back home—because it’s a small farm, it’s
vegetables and livestock. And so it’s, maybe it’s just because it
touches a lot of
things from peoples’…what was familiar from back home. And maybe that
For many of the people here, it’s a familiar setting. John Fallah
fled a civil war in
Liberia two years ago. He had to leave his family behind when he
While he says he enjoys life in Chicago because he doesn’t feel
anymore, Fallah says the farm reminds him of home…
“I’m very much impressed of what I am seeing on this farm. There is no
difference from how we do the farming in Africa and here.”
(sound of chickens, goats)
This was Fallah’s first visit to the farm. Some of the Kovler Center’s
made the 80-mile trip from Chicago many times. Thaddee Essomba says
has become an important part of his life.
“When I came here you know I feel myself very relaxed. I enjoy myself,
know, my soul was really in touch with the nature, and I feel very
know and why sometime every year I try to come back to be, to feel that
For Essomba and the other survivors of torture, that sensation can be
part of the healing process.
Essomba has even found a way to give back to the community surrounding
farm. He’s been teaching area kids about life in his native country.
It’s a land far
away, a place the kids have probably even never heard of. But as
learned, the nation of Cameroon has some very important things in
the rural Midwest.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chris Lehman.