Survivor of Somali Civil War establishes love, work, and home in Seattle

Author: Maggie Wilson
Photographer: Renee Banks

Please be aware: This article includes the recounting of experiences during the Somali Civil War that are upsetting. They are also real experiences. Read compassionately. A version, that was edited for length, appeared in our Winter/Spring 2019 Newsletter.

Fadumo Daud heard a bomb coming, but she could not escape it.

She was a child then, with her younger sister beside her. Those who heard the bomb coming either ran or laid themselves down.

“(When bombs near) people go somewhere they think is safe,” Fadumo said.

Today, Fadumo lives in Seattle’s Columbia City, with her loving husband, Ahmed, and her three sons. With help from Seattle Milk Fund, her youngest son attends preschool, and her two older sons attend after-school programs while Fadumo works toward a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care at Seattle Central College.

Her middle son is 8 years old – the same age this year as she was in Somalia during the Civil War in 1991.

Fadumo juices carrots in bright mornings for her boys. Over winter, she took them to the Pacific Science Center.

“It’s so beautiful there,” she said. In the Center’s tropical butterfly room, royal blue and red calico butterflies land on cinnamon and cocoa trees, nervous shoulders.

Fadumo said the science center is one of her favorite places in Seattle. She was given tickets from the Seattle Milk Fund, an organization she’s a student with. Through Seattle Milk Fund’s program, her children are cared for while she finishes her education.

She’s earning a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care at Seattle Central College.

When we talk about why she studies respiratory therapy, Fadumo says her path to medicine began in 1991 – and she takes us to the day.

Civil war in Somalia

Today, Fadumo is somewhere safe. But her journey to Seattle was treacherous. She believes she arrived because of her faith in God, her family, help from people on her path – and her strength.

When Fadumo was 8 years old, she lived happily with her mother and five younger siblings in Somalia.

Then war came. It seemed inconceivable that a small militia would permanently wipe out the government. But the war worsened; the president of Somalia fled. And suddenly, there was no running water, no regulation, no electricity.

Fadumo’s family could not flee. Around their house, bullets screamed.

Her young mother Sadiyo said, “If I take all these kids, I don’t know how to survive on this road.”

The youngest baby was only months old.

One day, Sadiyo had to search for food.

Fadumo and her 7-year-old sister Faiza left their siblings at home and went out to search for clean water.

Hands full, jugs full of water

Fadumo and Faiza carried plastic jugs.

They embarked to their auntie’s house. Fadumo knew of a well there. Three other girls joined.

They couldn’t walk the streets, where gunfire whined without break. Instead, they walked along a wall. When the girls arrived at their auntie’s, the house was crowded, and they could see only strangers. They left to find water elsewhere.

They passed a mansion under construction. A man was in the doorway, watching.

The watchman called to the girls. He saw the jugs and offered water from a well there.

The girls were full of joy. They lined up and the man filled their jugs with fresh water.

Then, in the air – there was the distinct sound of an incoming bomb.

“We heard the noise. But it was coming to us directly,” Fadumo said. “There was nothing we could have done differently.”

The house was unfinished. They were standing on rugs. When the bomb hit, everything became shrapnel. The rugs crawled up legs, burning them.

The explosion hit the watchman and Faiza.

“They became pieces,” Fadumo said. “My sister and him – their bodies became unknown.”

Fadumo’s leg split in two. She was the first to wake from unconsciousness.

“I opened my eyes,” she said. “All I see is white ash. … I don’t hear anybody screaming, anybody talking. I just hear, ‘eh, eh.’ Somebody is making little noise. I think my sister was dying.”

Fadumo stood and fell. She thought of her family. As the oldest child, she felt responsible for helping them.

On her injured leg, she crawled through small rocks to an outdoor gate. At the gate, she screamed for help. But everyone was running for their lives. Running, passing.

A man eventually helped her.

He put her inside of a wheelbarrow and ran. Everything went blank. Fadumo woke up on a table at the hospital.

Finding Fadumo

The sun was setting when Sadiyo, Fadumo’s mother, returned with food.

She saw neighbors in the yard and asked God, “Help me. Whatever happened to my children. If they all died, give me the strength to bury them. If there are some left for me, please help me through this. I will never cry. Please leave me some.”

Sadiyo learned Faiza died and Fadumo was at a hospital, but no one knew which.

Sadiyo and strong men took the bathroom door off its hinges and stripped the bedsheet off her bed.

She and neighbors walked to the mansion, carrying the bedsheet and door. There, they found Faiza, the watchman and another young girl dead.

Two other girls had survived and lost their hands.

Sadiyo and neighbors buried Faiza and the little girl who died together in the ground.

After the burials, Sadiyo found Fadumo.

“My mom came, and she kissed me from the top,” Fadumo said. “And she said, ‘You’re going to be fine. I’m here. I found you.’”

They had to amputate Fadumo’s left leg.

She remembers braiding her hands together in prayer and promising, “God, if you save my life today, I will help your needy ones.”

Taking refuge in Kenya, then Seattle

Sadiyo soon decided the family needed to flee Somalia. Fadumo was still recovering.

The family had to walk, and they took turns helping Fadumo.

They reached a refugee camp in Kenya and lived there until they were processed as refugees to Seattle.

It was 1996.

“God saved me,” Fadumo said. “Everything comes from God. I think my purpose was to come here (to Seattle) and have a life.”

In Seattle, Fadumo visited a doctor for the first time since her leg was amputated. Doctors at Harborview inspected the wound and found an infection.

They said her leg would have to be re-amputated.

A nurse at Harborview, who lost her leg in a boating accident, came to Fadumo to show her a prosthetic.

“She walked in,” Fadumo remembered. “And she showed me her leg, and she was wearing a sandal. And I was so excited. I said, ‘I could wear that sandal, and I could get that leg, and I could walk again with sandals. Yes, I will do the surgery.’”

In 1997, they re-amputated her leg and gave her a prosthetic.

She has walked ever since.

To this day, she still visits the practitioner who fitted her with her new leg at his home in Gig Harbor.

A desire to help others the way she was helped

“I’ve seen people, coming from left and right helping me through, helping me walk again,” Fadumo said.

It’s why she studies medicine.

After graduating high school in Seattle, she worked for years as a caregiver.

She remembers one night sleeping with her second baby, when he was very little, and musing, “I need to fulfill my promise to God that I will help serve humanity.”

She went back to school. She studied through pregnancy, the birth of a child and her mother-in-law’s breast cancer diagnosis.

“She was having a hard time breathing at the end,” Fadumo said of her mother-in-law. “I see breath – and I see that we take it for granted.”

She reflected both on her mother-in-law’s struggle breathing and her struggle breathing when she was a child in the hospital in Somalia. She was moved to study respiration.

Needing childcare in Seattle to study, reach dreams

While searching for affordable childcare, Fadumo found the Seattle Milk Fund, and quickly saw how their Family Connections Program would make finishing college possible. Her boys would have their own educational opportunities, while she attended classes and did additional clinical work.

She applied to the Seattle Milk Fund and was accepted in 2017.

“I was so happy,” said Fadumo. “It gave me safety and security to continue my education. … I have to work hard and the life I left behind is still imprinted in my mind.”

As Fadumo nears graduation day this spring, she reflects on what receiving her degree will mean to her sons.

“I want my children to look back and see what I did in my life, and look how far I came,” Fadumo said. “From the war, my education. And take notice of that and say, ‘If my mom did it, I can do it, too.’”

In January, she worked with two of her sons, now 8 and 9 years old, on a Heritage Day poster. She is beginning to introduce them to her childhood.

Her son was asked by his teacher, ‘If you go to Somalia, what do you most want to see?’

And he said, “the monuments” and where his Aunt Faiza is buried.

Fadumo’s future

What’s important to Fadumo is that she makes a positive difference.

Of her friends who survived the bomb and lost their hands, she said in Somalia people with scars of war or similar losses aren’t socially accepted. Disabilities, missing limbs and mental illness cause people to treat you differently, she said.

The two unmarried sisters now live together.

“One is missing the right hand and one is missing the left hand,” Fadumo said. “They wash clothes, cook, and support each other, one hand to another.”

She hopes to work with survivors of war and survivors of trauma, and also to find ways to give back to those in Somalia.

Today, she studies and works hard, raises her sons and thanks God for her blessings.

She, her husband and three sons sit and eat Somali Anjero in their South Seattle home. They pass the sweet bread, one hand to another, around the table.

Fadumo will soon be studying for her final exams and will begin applying for respiratory therapist positions just as soon as she graduates. We wish her and her beautiful family all the best as she begins her career helping others.

Donate your birthday or party to Goodwin Connections’ Families

Goodwin Connections is celebrating 112 years of supporting families as they navigate through hardships and look toward creating brighter financial futures for their families. Commit to being a champion for our local families throughout the year.

Here are a few ideas to help make your support go even further:

  • Host a fundraiser on social media: Here is an example of what you could post for your virtual fundraiser: “I am celebrating my birthday by requesting donations from my friends and family for one of my favorite nonprofits, Goodwin Connections. They make childcare more affordable and consistent for low-income student parents as they work toward their college degree. Goodwin Connections is truly changing lives for this generation and the next. Join me in making a gift to help create brighter financial futures for local families.” Here’s the link to make your gift: https://goodwinconnections.org/donate/
  • If you are hosting a party, you can request gifts to Seattle Milk Fund from friends and family in lieu of host/hostess gifts.
  • Make gifts to Seattle Milk Fund in honor of a friend or family member’s birthday or over the holidays. We will send them a card telling them of your gift.

Thank you for helping to make a higher education degree a reality for local parents and for giving their children an early education boost that will help them begin their own educational journey. If you have an idea for a fundraiser, give us a call at 206-526-7944 to discuss specifics.



A Life-Changing Decision

by: April

I can still remember the exact moment I decided to change my life.

On a crisp fall day in 2013, a few months after I became a single mom, I decided to take a shortcut through the University of Washington campus with my then 3-year-old daughter in the backseat. We marveled at the trees and buildings as we drove. Glancing back in the rearview mirror I told my daughter, “You can go to school here one day you know.” She kept looking out the window, too young to grasp what I was telling her.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I had an epiphany—the best way to ensure that my daughter went to college, was not to tell her, but to show her. Graduating from college was something I had always wanted to accomplish and driving through campus that day I knew what I had to do. That night, at 31-years-old, I enrolled at North Seattle College and I never looked back. I began shaping mine and my daughter’s future from that moment on—the power to raise the bar was in my hands.

One of the most difficult aspects of returning to school with a young child is paying for childcare. When I found out about Seattle Milk Fund, I was so grateful that such a resource existed. Without your support, I would never have been able to obtain my degree. My daughter received an incredible preschool education and I was able to attend class with the peace of mind in knowing that she was in good hands.

As I worked my way through school I met incredible, lifelong friends and mentors.
In 2018, I graduated from the University of Washington, the first in my family on either side. There were many days I rode the bus up that same road, on my way to class, where I made that life-changing decision, never forgetting how far I had come and the incredible people who had made it possible.

April recently began her career in Human Resources at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, a professional position that would not have been possible without obtaining her bachelor’s degree.

Thanks to you, Seattle Milk Fund’s program is stronger than ever. This fall, 51 students were accepted into our program–an increase of 70% from the year before.  If you are moved by April’s story, help keep the positive momentum going for students like April by making a gift this season.

Thank you for believing in our students as their success is your success as you have shown kindness time and again to our families.


The Power of Perseverance

Yelena was featured in our Summer | Fall Newsletter

If there’s one way to describe Yelena, it’s determined. She taught herself English and homeschooled her kids for a few years, while teaching them Ukrainian simultaneously. Despite the hardships she faced moving to Seattle from Ukraine, she never gave up in her path to providing her three children, Daniel, Darina, and David, with the best possible life.

It was never an option to give up or stop trying, so she kept going, and pushed through the long days and nights of studying, working, and taking care of a full household. While taking a prerequisite course in communication, she began to learn about relationships and how to better them through communication, which was her goal with her husband of 12 years. It wasn’t until she began to learn about domestic violence in this class that she realized that her husband was abusive and she shouldn’t be treated the way she was. Yelena ended her relationship with her husband after being told for so long that she wasn’t good enough, and feeling stuck and unable to do anything.

She was then on her own to take care of her three young children. Having been a stay at home mother until now, Yelena was determined to finish her education and get a degree at Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

“Failing wasn’t an option,” she said. This past winter quarter, she completed her associate’s degree and was recently hired by Infinity Rehab at Bethany at Silverlake, where she has begun her career as a Physical Therapy Assistant. Yelena describes the last four years as life-changing. She explains that she doesn’t know what she would have done without Seattle Milk Fund’s support.

“I knew that my kids would be in child care and safe, and that was the most important thing for me. I was going to school for them, but I couldn’t just abandon them at home if they weren’t being taken care of.”

The additional support from Seattle Milk Fund was as meaningful to Yelena as the Child Care Grants. Receiving tickets to the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Children’s Museum was a cost she otherwise couldn’t afford and it meant the world to her.

She also thanks her Family Support Advocate, Linda. “To have someone call for even five minutes to check in on how school was going and ask about the kids was so meaningful,” she said.

The most memorable moment for her was around Christmas time when Linda and her husband showed up with gifts for their family. Her kids couldn’t believe that it was all for them and it made that holiday season so special for them, especially because they were so far from the rest of their family, who live in Ukraine.

Yelena is now hopeful and excited about starting work. She recognizes the growth that has happened for her over the past few years and is so appreciative of her education and the instructors who went beyond basic education and helped her get to where she is now.

They provided her with life skills, such as interview advice and how to be professional, which led her to her recent job. She has always pushed forward to be the best role model for her kids, despite how hard it was to find enough time in the day to study after going to school and working.

When talking about this, she said, “It wasn’t always easy, but the kids helped out with cooking and cleaning and it became something we could do together.” If there is one thing she wants others to take away from her story, it’s that if she can do it, they can do it:

“I really want women to step forward and make the right choice in their life. We are all smart and the only thing in your way is your will.”

Yelena doesn’t want people to feel sorry for themselves, or be afraid of failure, because doing something is better than not trying. She is so thankful for Seattle Milk Fund and looks forward to giving back to help others who are in situations similar to hers. Once Yelena was accepted into Seattle Milk Fund’s program, Linda became her Family Support Advocate until she graduated. Every student at Seattle Milk Fund is connected with a Family Support Advocate to provide additional help and resources to ensure they are going to be successful.

Thank you to Amy Rickel, our indispensable intern, for authoring Yelena’s success story. Amy graduated in June with a B.S. in Communication from UW.

Thank you to Renee Banks for volunteering as our family photographer. 


Graduation Gratitude

“I would like to thank everyone for helping and supporting me with Kiana. Going to school and work full time is a challenge, but with the help from you at Seattle Milk Fund, it was possible. Having Seattle Milk Fund assist with child care has been a huge blessing for my family. Everyone at Seattle Milk Fund has made it possible for me to graduate from my program with an Associate Degree in Nursing. I will be able to provide a better life for my family, as well as pursue my dreams to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I am pleased to inform you that I have passed my NCLEX-RN and will be starting my job at the end of July as a Registered Nurse! I cannot thank you enough for helping provide child care for my daughter. I appreciate all that everyone at the Seattle Milk Fund has done and would love to be a part of Seattle Milk Fund in the future!”

Forever grateful, Kristine, North Seattle College Graduate and Registered Nurse


Katy spoke at our 110th Grand Birthday Gala. She and her husband attended the event to thank Seattle Milk Fund supporters in person for providing child care grants while Katy attends the University of Washington.

Read below for her story and heartfelt remarks…

Hello, I’m Katy. I am here tonight to thank you for your generous child care grant. I also want to tell you more about myself to help explain why furthering my education will mean so much to my family’s future.

As a family of 3 who is trying to get ahead…it has been difficult. Our financial situation is less than ideal. My husband works very hard to support us and takes overtime shifts at a job that pays a little over minimum wage. My degree will mean a more stable financial future for me, my husband, and our little boy.

My road to higher education has had a few twists and turns. And, thanks to the support of family, friends, and now Seattle Milk Fund—my long-time dream of becoming a psychologist is inching closer to reality with every paper I turn in and every exam I take.

Beginning at an extremely young age, I was a perfectionist and I strived to be the best. This led me to some of my most amazing achievements, along with many hardships and pain. When I was 12, I almost lost my life to manic depression, compulsive exercising, and severe Anorexia Nervosa.

I conquered the disease with much thanks to a wonderful psychologist who would not give up on me. The medical department at Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington played a huge part in my recovery. I believe I am alive today because of their help and the support of my family and friends. Since then, I have committed to help other people fight eating disorders. While continuing to battle my own demons, I have found that volunteering my story to help others has had a huge impact on keeping myself healthy along with contributing to my success.

After I graduated high school, I had an opportunity to pursue a passion of mine, acting. So, off I went to California…and for several years I was a successful actor. However, the lifestyle and film industry took its toll and lead me to an unhealthy state of mind. Realizing this, I came back home to my family and friends in the Pacific Northwest to pursue my original goal of becoming a psychologist.

Because of my exposure to doctors when I was a teen, I’ve known for a long time now that I wanted to be a psychologist. I want to help others who are struggling with their mental health and to fight mental health stigmas.

I married my wonderful husband a few years ago and had my beautiful son. While being near my support system has been what I needed to move onward and upward with my life…we continue to find that making ends meet is extremely difficult without a higher education degree.

My husband and I have this amazing little man and we are hoping to do the best we possibly can for him and by him. This grant will ensure that my son receives the best possible education and guidance for his social, emotional, and physical development. Thanks to YOU, my bright and loving son will be prepared to succeed in Kindergarten in a few years.

Attending Bellevue College was a smart and financially savvy decision for getting my Associate of Arts degree. I was able to finish my prerequisites while taking some amazing courses in psychology and social sciences.

I began taking classes at the University of Washington—my dream school—a few weeks ago. I am officially working toward my bachelor’s in psychology and it feels like this is the right place for me. My ultimate education goal is to receive a doctorate in Psychology.

I want to thank you with all my heart for this opportunity. You are helping to make my dream of becoming a psychologist a reality. Your support means so much to my little family.

Thank you.


Tu, a current student grantee, spoke during our 2017 Annual Meeting & Brunch. Thank you, Tu for sharing your story.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am currently a student grantee in Seattle Milk Fund’s Child Care Grant Program. My son and I have benefited greatly from your generosity in the last year. The grants have allowed me to attend and finish my degree at the University of Washington—Seattle, and for my son to attend after-school care at his elementary school. I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a teacher preparation option this summer, which I can follow to receive my Master’s in teaching.

My educational journey begins in Vietnam, where I was born. Throughout my schooling in Vietnam, I was an honors student and received high marks, especially in math and science. However, the schooling system in Vietnam is very competitive, and I struggled with not fitting in culturally. At age 14, I looked into leaving my country and was accepted to a high school in Australia with a full-tuition scholarship.

When my scholarship ended, I returned to Vietnam to attend an international high school for a short time. I applied for a student visa to attend an American college. I was accepted at Green River College and received my high school diploma and an Associate degree in science. I graduated with the highest honor and I received a scholastic award and scholarship to continue my education. This was a glorious moment for my family and me because I am the first person in my family to achieve this level of education.

After graduation, I began an internship, got married, and my son was born. For years, my ex-husband was physically and mentally abusive to me. After banning me from attending school and giving countless threats to deport me without my son, we divorced.

My education journey was stalled after my divorce, because of financial hardship. At one time, I wanted to be a doctor. But, because of my son, I have since decided to become a teacher. He is my passion. I now seek to educate younger generations to help them with their own schooling and to inspire them to become future leaders with good moral character.

As I look back on my schooling. I find comfort and pride that I have prioritized education for my family. My mother taught me from a young age that, “Knowledge from education is the only property that cannot be stolen.” I am a survivor.  And, now we are thriving with the opportunities we have been given.

I thank you for supporting my family as I finish my Bachelor’s degree and continue my journey to become a teacher.


Seattle Milk Fund pays for childcare so low income parents can afford college

Seattle Milk Fund pays for childcare so low income parents can afford college


Bryn, a current student

Thank you to Bryn, a current Seattle Milk Fund student who graciously accepted an invitation to speak to our guests at our Seattle Milk FUNd event in April. Here is the speech she shared with the audience.

It is such a pleasure to be here tonight to share my educational journey with you.

As a fair warning – this speech might involve some tears, but don’t worry, they are tears of honor and joy as I reflect upon some of the lowest and most terrifying moments of my life and realize how far I have come. They are tears of appreciation as I realize that I would not be where I am today without the support from people like you, and programs like the Seattle Milk Fund. Read more.


CianaAs we move into the holidays and CookieFest, we wanted to highlight a previous Seattle Milk Fund recipient. Ciana is a recent graduate of South Seattle College’s Pastry and Baking Arts Program. After graduation she began working as a production baker at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Workshop, one of Seattle’s most highly-regarded bakeries. Way to go Ciana!

“Seattle Milk Fund made it possible for me to pursue my love of baking, and for my children to receive an early education. Our family is so grateful.”

Both South Seattle College and Tom Douglas Restaurants will be at CookieFest this year with their delectable treats to support families like Ciana’s. Thanks!