Mabel Gaye

Woken by the sound of fighting in her village streets, Mabel fled into a nearby forest with her three-year-old baby girl Precious.  Sometime during the disorientation and terror of the early morning, Mabel stumbled upon her three young cousins, hiding beneath a tree, lost and separated from their parents.  Reunited with a portion of her family, Mabel wound and waded through trees and rivers deep into the next day until she came upon a neighboring village. Along with other displaced families from her village, Mabel and her family found refuge with the villagers, sharing their homes and limited food.  It was there that Mabel learned about the fate of her home, about the fires that destroyed her village, and about her father’s dead body lying in a smoke-filled street.

The people who came after us said they burned the village and they saw a dead body burned up in the street and they thought it must be my dad, they said they saw his dead body in the street. When people told me he died, it hurt me a lot and I was frustrated and I was left by myself for a long time . . . because my mom left me and took my brothers [when I was little] and my dad took care of me . . . I was not ready to leave.  I was only thinking of him

Mabel and her four children arrived at the Salt Lake International airport late on the night of December 12, 2007.  Volunteers from Catholic Community Services (CCS) greeted the family at the airport, taking them to a safe place for what remained of the night. Having never learned to read, Mable suddenly found it difficult to perform simple tasks, like buying food at the grocery store for her family. 

I was alone and taking care of four children.  It was very hard and I can’t read and write.  Everything you do for your children you have to ask someone to help. If you can’t read and can’t write, nothing is easy for you, everything is hard.

By early March 2008, the AAU had located a job for Mabel at the Mayton Manor, a job she has kept for the past five years.  Mabel thrived in her new work and the independence it provided.

Back home, I couldn’t work or do anything . . . [but here] even though I didn’t go to school, I can still work and make money and help my mom [in Liberia]. I’m proud of myself for taking care of my family and taking responsibility of not only my own children but my [aunt’s].

Determined to increase her independence, Mabel asked her employers to rearrange her work schedule so that she could attend English classes at the AAU, a change which often puts Mabel at work until well past midnight.  But Mabel is grateful for the opportunity to improve her life and has already noticed the benefits of her sacrifice.

 I get a little bit better.  Before I couldn’t even write my name but now I can look on paper and recognize words.

Mabel’s motivation and determination has inspired her to continue improving her life.  In September of this year, Mabel finally passed her citizenship test after years of waiting and months of studying.  When asked the first thing she would do once she became a U.S. citizen, Mabel replied, I want to go see my mom . . . I miss my mom and my brothers… and my dad.

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Refugee & Immigrant Center - Asian Association of Utah
155 South 300 West, Suite 101, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84101
Tel: 801-467-6060 | Email:  | Contact Us

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