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Muday lends her unique perspective on refugee situation
Rotary, Muna Muday.jpg
Muna Muday was the guest speaker at The Rotary Club of McMinnville’s luncheon on Thursday. She spoke on the struggles of being raised in a war-torn country and how her family was lucky enough to be selected for relocation to America. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Rotary Meeting Song

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America is projected to receive thousands of refugees from Afghanistan in an evacuation aimed at relocating allies who helped our country during the 20-year war.

Muna Muday understands the struggles those refugees will endure and what they will face upon arriving in the United States. She was born in a refugee camp in war-torn Somalia. Her family lived the majority of her childhood in one as they shuttled from camp to camp seeking safety at a time when little was available. 

“While living in a refugee camp, my father was able to obtain work with the United Nations,” said Muday. “It provided us some money, but not much. Many nights in a row I remember going to bed hungry.”

Relocations were an effort to avoid militia terrorist groups which would raid the camps and kill men, women and children. 

Starvation, infection, disease and lack of medical care were daily threats. 

“At the age of 8 or 9, I began working as child labor. I’d walk through the camp picking up plastic bottles. We didn’t have shoes. If I had cut myself on something, there was the threat of infection or HIV/Aids. Even the simplest infection that would be treated with basic care here, wasn’t available there. The money I received for the bottles went to help support my family.” 

Mortality rate among children was 1-in-7 before age 5. A day didn’t pass without word of someone in the camp dying, said Muday. 

“Death was all around us. We knew we needed to find a country that would offer us the opportunity for a better life and allow us to reach our potential. We applied, were placed on a list, and we waited. We waited for years. Word came in 2001 that we were eligible for relocation. We would be going America. We were so excited. Then, we were told it was deferred.”

That delay was due to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. 

“We waited more than two more years. In 2004, we were relocated. We didn’t have a say in where we went, just told where we were going. We were settled in Nashville. The Catholic Charities of Tennessee provided us a furnished apartment and bought us clothes. They welcomed us. They provided us with assistance for six months. My father was given a donated car by the church. He started working in a warehouse.” 

After graduating high school, Muday earned a bachelor’s degree in public health at Tennessee State University and earned a master’s degree in public health at Vanderbilt. Today, she is the senior program manager at Addis Clinic, an international non-government organization that works with civic and economic development, as well as public health interventions.

“I fell very grateful to be standing before you today,” said Muday. “I could have been one of the 1-in-7 children who died. As a citizen of the global world, I wanted to help and give back in some way. That’s why I began working with Addis Clinic.”

The Addis mission is to utilize telemedicine to care for people living in medically underserved areas, to connect volunteer physicians with global health challenges, and to provide support to local partner organizations and frontline healthcare workers. 

Muna Muday was the guest speaker at The Rotary Club of McMinnville’s luncheon on Thursday, a session titled “International Refugees Find New Life, New Neighbors, New Successes in America.”