Family Matters: Yorkshire helping to lay the ghosts of war-torn land

WHEN a land mine exploded in his face in his native Somalia, Mohamed Harun Mohamoud thought his life was over. Although he was left blind, his disability hasn't stopped him chasing his dreams. His story is one of courage and determination.

AS a 15-year-old Mohamed Harun Mohamoud should have been looking forward to his final year at school.

Instead the bright teenager was living and working in a ghost town wrecked by his country's civil war.Conflict had claimed his school, his home, his friends and his childhood. Feeling there was little left to live for, he took a job looking for some of the three million landmines strewn across his devastated homeland.

"It sounds very risky, picking them up for a living but I had almost lost everything including my home and education," recalls Mohamed, now 33, and making a successful new life in Sheffield with his wife and children, aged four and two.

"I had seen friends and neighbours killed. The country was ruined and full of ghost cities. Rebel forces were fighting in the streets and I'd been living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for two years.

"I was from a good family. My dad was an accountant and like every family we were deeply affected by the war. I just wanted to do something that would save people.

"It was the only work available and for $115 a month which is about 60 we cleared streams, fields, houses and gardens.

"We'd use a stick to dig into the earth then when we found a landmine we'd call the section leader who would defuse it.

"One day I was digging and a mine just exploded in my face. The flames went into my eyes and the medics refused to send me to another country for treatment. The sub contractors who were working for the UN weren't insured and now I realise we were exploited.

"Lots of my friends lost their lives or limbs."

Mohamoud was left totally blind and in the years that followed, civil war returned to his homeland.

He again fled to the stark refugee camps but found love with his wife Zeinab Jama.

After a decade of violence he made the decision to come to the UK and left Zeinab behind in what is now Somaliland.

"I'm met Zeinab but life seemed to be going from bad to worse. I decided to get out and come to the UK.

"In Somalia, people think that if you are blind your life is over. Education and employment are not an option. I'd always wanted peace and stability and although it was hard moving to Sheffield my worries were not that great. The environment and the language were strange and it was hard to overcome the blindness barrier but wherever you go there's difficulties.

"It was easier than life in Somalia where all I could think about was survival and trying to stay safe.

Mohamed would phone and email his wife and returned twice for visits when his two children were conceived.

He didn't meet his daughter Hafsa, now two, until she came to live in England in 2007.

"My wife used to decribe her to me but I didn't meet her until she came to here."

Mohamed's wife and children are now enjoying their new life in Sheffield which has a sizeable Somalian population.

He's received good support from Sheffield council, the RNIB and has attended residential study programmes to boost his language skills.
Now, he has completed a one-year humanities access course at Castle College, Sheffield, where he received support from the visual impairment team.

"I am pleased with what I have achieved but there is still more to do."

Source:The Star