16-year-old Omar Faarah is a Somali-American youth now living in Seattle with his father Gurey, who works as a community leader and social worker at Yesler Terrace and Neighborhood House. Omar stays home and attends Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA), an online public school run by the state, while Gurey works from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
They moved to America in 2000. Gurey notes, “It wasn’t my choice to come to the United States. Because I had a good life, had land, business and an established life...But the [Somali] civil war, rivals, gangs, warlords, they are rampaging and killing and destroying everything…So for my safety I left the country I was born in and grew up in and educated in.” After spending a few years in San Jose, CA, Gurey decided to move to a less-expensive Seattle, where he could connect with former neighbors from Somalia.
Gurey, who is raising Omar by himself after his divorce several years ago, has had a profound impact on his son. Omar experiences most of his life within the context of his father’s presence and his strong community and Islamic values. When Omar is not completing his schoolwork, he is often helping Gurey tutor local Somali youth for the Yesler Youth and Family Empowerment program that Gurey founded himself.
Deeply religious, respectful of his elders and connected to the local East African community, Omar is a reflection of Gurey’s beliefs and morals. “That’s what I teach him,” Gurey says. “Tolerance, acceptance, respect for others’ cultures and ways of life.”
© Lindsey Wasson| Seattle Freelance Photographer