Civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. Millions fled to refugee camps, many in Kenya. Two years later, the first group of refugees was sent to the U.S. - nearly half to Minnesota.
The U.S. State Department determines where refugees, like those from Somalia, will live, and the number of volunteer agencies in a given location influence this decision. Minnesota has many active agencies, including Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities and World Relief Minnesota. Agencies such as these agree to help the refugees get settled, learn English, find housing, obtain health care and begin a new life. Apparently, Minnesota also provides lots of welfare programs.
After the first wave of refugees settled into their new lives in Minnesota, the second and third waves of friends and family members began to make their travel plans.
I've done a little reading about the influx of Somalis into the small town of Faribault, Minnesota (the town where I stayed last weekend). It seems there are a lot of disgruntled residents who like to voice their opposition (on various websites and blogs) to the large number of foreigners who have settled in their town. All I know from personal experience is that the woman who runs the B&B where I stayed told me (when I asked if the town was safe to walk around in at night) there are many Somalis in the town, that I shouldn't worry about them because they won't bother me - that, actually, they won't even talk to me.
I met a very nice Somali woman at the carnival my second afternoon in Faribault, and she let me photograph her four daughters (see previous post).
But my favorite picture from that day was the photograph I made of one of the daughters playing in a plastic bubble that floated on water. Five minutes in the bubble for five dollars.