Where Do I Belong? Zaynab Abdi

Since 2013, Green Card Voices has produced video and print storytelling about some of the 40 million immigrants and refugees in the United States. The mission is to humanize what otherwise can be a misunderstood and mischaracterized community. 

Executive director Tea Rozman Clark was a volunteer in refugee camps after war broke out in her home country of Yugoslavia. She received a scholarship to study in the United States, and eventually earned a master’s degree from New York University. She launched Green Card Voices in the Twin Cities, and has since branched into other areas of the state and country. We are partnering to feature some (adapted and updated) stories collected by her non-profit organization.

I grew up in Aden, Yemen, with a big family. There were eleven in the same house. I grew up with my grandma and with my father’s family. I loved them so much. 

I had a beautiful life there. We had a simple life. We didn’t have much money, but we shared the good things together. We had parties at night. The neighbors came to our house because we were their only neighbor that had TV at the time. The neighbors brought their food to share with us. I played games with my friends. I loved my life there. I wish I could go back.

My grandma died in 2010. There was revolution in Yemen in 2011, so I moved to Egypt. There was revolution there too. I moved to the United States in 2014.

I came to the United States because my mom had been here for 16 years. She had a chance to come to the United States by lottery. She couldn’t take us because she had to be single to come.

When I came to Minnesota, it was such a different life than what I’d seen. It was cold, it was winter. Sometimes I was sad. I wanted to go back to my country because I didn’t like people here. They didn’t like me, or they didn’t like to talk to anyone. I was smiling at them, trying to open conversation, but they would cut the conversation short.

I went to school, and I saw many more opportunities that kids in America had. I told myself that I had to take advantage of all these opportunities in this place to get better in my future. In my country there is no future even if you finish college. Most of the college students end up being cleaners at restaurants or having no jobs at all. I had a chance to work here and make some money. 

I want to go to law school so I can be a human rights lawyer. I want to help my people back home to get justice and better future. I have spoken at many places advocating for refugees and girls education. I spoke at the United Nations twice. I work with Green Card Voices as an immigrant and refugee youth ambassador and I am also an advocate for girls education with the Malala Fund. 

I am a junior honor student at St. Catherine University. I am studying Political Science, International Relations, and Philosophy. I want to finish my education so I can help other people who couldn’t finish their education because of war, conflict, or because of culture barriers. 

I dream of a world where there is not war or violence. A world where there is peace and love and my dream will be true one day. 


In June, Green Card Voices released its fifth book, “Green Card Entrepreneur Voices: Inspiring How-To Stories From Minnesota Immigrants.” The non-profit organization offers touring photo exhibits, is looking for new locations to film stories, accepts tax-deductible donations, and continues to seek immigrant stories to tell. For more videos and links to books, including teaching guides, and full video stories from these women and others, visit GreenCardVoices.org

Minnesota Women’s Press featured a profile of Green Card Voices founder Tea Rozman Clark in 2016. 

The Advocates for Human Rights’ report “Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrants Rights in Minnesota Today” is the result of more than 200 interviews and 25 community conversations held throughout Minnesota. Participants noted that while Minnesota is welcoming, the welcome does not extend very far. “Newcomers face discrimination and exclusion from social networks and by extension, exclusion from the economic opportunities and political power such networks bring.” 

Details: theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/belonging

MinnPost has a series of articles about immigrants: minnpost.com/category/minnpost-topic/politics/immigration

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