UTICA, NY - On Point for College Utica student Ahmat Adam Djouma thinks he was about 9 when his family took their farm animals and crossed the border from Sudan to Chad.
He’s not sure about his age because record keeping was not a priority in Sudan.
He remembers the journey, though.
“I remember one day they said that the rebel forces are coming and we have to leave,” Djouma said.
The next day, word was that the rebels were heading their way, so his family fled farther into Chad to a refugee camp. Most of their animals died along the way, he said, because they didn’t have food.
“I could hear the rebel force and the government fighting,” recalled Djouma, who has been blind since he was 2-weeks-old. “I could hear the noise and the gunshots. I am not sure how far away they were.”
At the refugee camp, where he and six family members lived in a hot tent, Djouma’s life did change in one good way; he attended school for the first time. His parents had to fight to get him into the camp school, though, because the teacher didn’t know how to teach a blind student, Djouma said. He learned by memorizing lessons, including a 90-page book once.
When Djouma came to Utica as a refugee in December 2009 with his parents and eight siblings, he brought that determination to learn, a determination that has led him to Mohawk Valley Community College, where he is studying public policy, and has earned him national recognition.