Review: Conquering the Odds: Journey of a Shepherd Girl

Parent Category: Resiliency Reader eNewsletter Category: Winter 2016 - Resiliency Reader Index

Conquering the Odds: Journey of a Shepherd Girlby Habibi Haji, RN
Review provided by Molly Siebert

This book surprised me. Not only is it a book about one person's survival and accomplishments but it is vividly descriptive of the author's thoughts and the life she saw and experienced in each phase of her journey to better herself. I like how Habibo narrates her story. You truly get a sense of the African life and culture, and life in her refugee camps. Also, I am impressed by how she developed problem-solving skills at such an early age. It is heartwarming to read about a such a young girl conquering the odds at each phase of her life with the adaptable skills of resiliency.

The description of the family dynamics and way of local life and survival is delivered quite simply and visually. You sense the African culture mingled with the wariness of hour-by-hour survival in her early childhood. The skills and instincts her mother and grandmother imparted to her, she believes, are key to her survival and her determination to better herself. This is what she tries to pass on to her children.

The details of her three years at the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, as well as the process a refugee goes through once an application to America is approved were fascinating. I found her passage on pages 169-170 about an event at the refugee camp that changed her life, deceptively significant. I believe she had the instinct to realize that education would open doors for her without the realization of how much. She acquired her "education" by learning the "alphabet and math" and "borrowing a friend's homework to learn what they were learning.... Once I learned how to read, I was hooked for life.... It was a turning point for me." Habibo will tell you that faith got her "out of her grandmother's village, and out of Somalia, and out of the Dadaab" refugee camp. For those of you who are familiar with resiliency skills and attributes, what does the following statement tell you about Habibo?

"If you have no plans to do something, but all of a sudden an opportunity pops up and the things that happen are the best in your entire life.... When things like that take place, that many times are out of your control and your life changes completely, that would be a result of faith" (page 170).

When someone recognizes opportunities and events that lead to a better life with acknowledgement and gratitude, they consider it as a gift and as Habibo believed a gift of faith. It's my belief that this experience is a gift of resiliency.

She describes the months involved in the application and approval process for coming to America through the United Nations. You feel her sense of anxiety, wariness and determination to go through endless interviews and medical examinations to gain freedom in America. During the months of this process in Nairobi, she recalls a sense of isolation due to staying in a hotel deep in the corruption of city life and the danger the city holds. Her survival skills she developed as a shepherd in her youth prepared her for this. She was determined to undergo the daily shuttle back and forth in crowded buses to the agency, waiting in long lines for endless interviews and medical exams. She stayed focused on her goal.

I thought it was apt that she uses William Shakespeare quote: "To thine own self be true." This shepherd girl who became a nurse at the Mayo Clinic is a classic example of this quote. The pure sense of self and self-worth to achieve what she has achieved have their genesis in the role models of her mother and grandmother. Additionally, a unique pattern of her personality and self-worth was her celebration of survival at the end of the day. Habibo will tell that her story of overcoming the odds was "sheer determination to survive, to improve, and to make a better life for myself and those around me.... Plain and simple."

I truly enjoyed this book. -- MS

View Conquering the Odds: Journey of a Shepherd Girl at Amazon.com

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