Maliko Hamadi

Where are you from?

Jilib, Somalia

What was it like growing up?

I lived in a refugee camp from 1992 to 2007. In the beginning, it wasn’t so bad, because I was living under my parents’ care. Then, I grew up and had to take care of my own things, so it was more challenging.

What brought you to Cleveland?

After immigrating to the United States in 2007, I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to be with family. In 2010, I moved to Cleveland because I had friends who lived here.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

When you are in a refugee camp, you hear a lot about America. My main desire was to be well educated. I thought America would be a great place for me to enhance my education.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

While there were no specific challenges, everything was different. It was a different country, a different environment. There were cultural differences. For instance, it is customary in most of Africa to look down when speaking to an elder, as a sign of respect. In America, this is interpreted as being disrespectful.

What is your occupation?

Officer - Cleveland Division of Police.

I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. In Cleveland, we’ve never had a Somalian police officer. Most Somalians, and refugees in general, think the police are out to “get them.” I’ve tried to explain to them that they are not there to “get you.” They are there to protect you. I want to be a role model for the community and set a good example.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Clevelanders are very friendly people. My friends here in Cleveland made it feel like home, as soon as I got here. Cleveland has made me who I am.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

Besides the religion, we have other customs, such as fasting. We also practice the concepts of respect and tradition in our home (such as the manner in which we raise our children).

What do you love about Cleveland?

I like the way people are. They’re very social, very helpful.

What is your favorite thing to do in Cleveland?

I enjoy spending time with my six kids, all of whom are under the age of nine. I like to play soccer. I like to run. I feel well-adjusted living here.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Most of the immigrants and refugees are people looking for peace. These are the people who have been suffering for a while, especially when they are coming directly from the refugee camp. One thing we all have to understand is that refugees and immigrants, in general, are coming here to change their life.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

We need to understand what incoming immigrants and refugees have experienced.