Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Thomas Rogers Muyunga Mukasa on the cheese lined streets of America and how to out-run the cats!

The rats were in a meeting and in this meeting they were discussing about cats. The cats had five features: The cats had grown in number; hunt in groups; were more ferocious; persistent and; never tired of chasing the rats. The older rats heard of the cheese lined streets in America. Better still in America there were no cats! Thus started a mass migration called: the rats to America migration. They boarded ships, aeroplanes, yachts, rafts, trains, cars and any means through which they could be brought to America. The cats they found in America were bigger, faster and more ferocious. Yes, the streets were lined with cheese too!
This is a story that has implications to immigrants and asylum seekers who come to America. The landscape is different though. Amidst human trafficking and internet-based malicious scam sites, one is torn between which facilities to run to. There is a range of opportunities in America: reception facilities; immigrant/refugee support services; UNHCR documentation facilities; minor support opportunities through agencies and homes where couples want to adopt children; faith-based reception services; city-council social services; not-for-profit reception centers and; internet/telephone-based services.
Reports of un-met promises made to new immigrants are rife. Reports of human trafficking are rife too. The expectations of immigrants or refugees or asylum seekers are around the basic issues of: health, housing, documentation, employment and relationships. This makes them vulnerable and many fall prey to cunning and crafty people.
As people make breakthroughs, they should be wary of some internet/telephone-based sites that promise so much in so little a time. Some claim to provide: loans; education grants; health insurance; education grades; safety and security from internet hacking and housing facilities. The catch is one has to pay a lot of money in order to register and access the services. Many of these services are designed in such a way as to fleece off un-suspecting enthusiasts!
If you thought you had escaped the Nigerian Scams (The 419s), this side of the world are hackers and scammers far more skilled (The Ponzi schemes). This is not to say the internet is taken over by scammers. No! There are really genuine sites and businesses online. There are also scams!  Like the cats these are the features one may be faced with: They have used the first class Indian-trained computer literates to come up with very official looking websites; they have toll-free lines for calling and receiving calls. They create impression of being in very noisy and busy premises;; they have rented post office boxes where one can send letters; they have land-based addresses most times a ruse to convince an inquiring person of their physical nature; they have bank accounts and with the use of credit card transactions they are able to conduct businesses. Unfortunately or fortunately, even the genuine ones have these features. What a serious person relying on on-line transactions should do: do a background check on the on-line based business through the FBI anti-fraud services or online anti-fraud services, use Craigslist or Amazon credited websites. This way one stands better chances of value returns. If the business has a phone number, call them to express your concerns. It will give you confidence.
The cheese lined streets of America exist. The rats should understand that they are living side by side with cats. The cats will never tire of chasing them. All the rats have to learn is to outrun the cats!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Thomas Rogers Muyunga Mukasa, a Human Rigts Advocate shares; Important points for a recent immigrant to USA

The elephant is a very proud and arrogant animal. It was invited to the tortoise’s house one day. While there one night it kept on pushing the tortoise out of the house with its huge body.  The tortoise was forced to spend the night outside!  30 years ago, I made a decision that today turns out to make me reflect on what constitutes the immediate needs of a person. If we do not reflect on our positions we let pride, arrogance and ersatz contentment ruin us.  I realised the following points ring true: we need each other; we need to explore our contexts and; we need to know our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. How well do we address our own insecurities at individual and collective levels?
Who are the ‘each others’ in question? I came to USA with a small suitcase in which were two shirts and 4 trousers. In it were other essentials I had packed hurriedly. I got on a plane and landed at Dulles Airport, Washington DC. My hosts picked me and brought me to their home. I joined their family as a new member. I learnt to smile again. I learnt to ask questions about USA. I shared my insecurities and was given counsel on how to move. I was guided on how to make small steps. I learnt to navigate through the weather, streets and USA Calendar. I was provided for in form of dress, diet and development experiences. The development experiences included: getting around and doing shopping or errands. I learnt the street names and learnt the means of travel. I learnt how to look up addresses. The addresses of places that have continuously been of help to me are: the Union Station; City Hall; the library; the community services offices (to register for orientation and work opportunities); immigration documentation center; the prayer house and; the recreation facilities.
I looked up people I would make friends with. I was shown where to do volunteer work. I am not allowed by law to work for a salary so I depend on the support from my hosts in form of: shelter, food, utilities and occasional out of pocket money. As a person from Uganda, I was interested to meet Ugandans who have settled in New England. I wanted to ask them to share their stories with me. I failed to meet that many until I visited Boston City where I met three Ugandan-Americans who gave me some tips. I have since met others who are much focused. With these ones we decided to found an organisation or society or association. We called it the Uganda-New England Society (UGNEW). Our main goal was to provide opportunities for improving on ourselves in USA. I was able to join volunteer organisations and clubs visiting Universities to share stories from Africa. This has improved my understanding of life in USA schools, communities and nature of institutionalised social services.
President Barack Obama has been recently inaugurated (January 2013). The USA, in which we are founding UGNEW, has contexts we need to factor in as we aspire to establish a civil society. We are from a background that engages in work and believes in being productive. USA is a great nation and it is an environment in which organised societies and their members are provided opportunities to pursue their aspirations. We hope through, UGNEW to: have the first civil society house with an address in New England (most probably Boston City); we want to profile needs of persons of Ugandan descent in New England and explore avenues of addressing them; we want to make sure that we enrol as many members as possible and; we want to improve members’ understanding of skills required to lead a productive life in USA. This is a shared collective dream. The questions many of us who want to settle in USA should ask are around the themes touched in this small write-up.