One refugee’s quest to get to America — and the new lives of the family that did

I’ve enjoyed my online silence, which did indeed make me more productive, but this piece jolted me back into the game…

In 2009, the Christian Science Monitor ran an award-winning year-long series, “Little Bill Clinton,” about nine-year-old Bill Clinton Hadam, a newly arrived refugee in Atlanta, and the charter school and community that became his home. The whole series — a multi-platform project that included daily blogs, regular videos and monthly print stories, and took a huge commitment by the writer and her editors — is worth an extended look, but I point it out today because journalist Mary Wiltenburg recently posted updates about the family — seriously heart-warming stuff — and about a family member still stuck as a refugee in Tanzania.

Mary’s portrait of Neema John’s life in Tanzania captured Monitor readers’, who wonder what has happened to the now 22-year-old who’s been in refugee resettlement limbo for ages. Turns out she’s trying to make it through the red tape of new US refugee resettlement rules, which require a DNA test to prove the relation you claim on paper.

It should be straightforward — and Neema and her family thought it would be — but nothing that involves relocation ever is, and Neema’s limbo continues…

Meanwhile, Neema’s family in the US is making the most of its new life — and Little Bill Clinton is basically training for the Olympics. Seriously. If you want a warm-fuzzy story for the holidays, and even the greatest cynics among us must want a little break from all that jadedness at this coercively jolly time of year, this is it.  Check it out.

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