PORTLAND – In 1983 the civil war broke out in Sudan. The nation’s civilians were caught in severe chaos. My mother was desperate to find a safe refuge.

She took me and my sisters to Khartoum, where she raised us with integrity and hard work until she passed away. In time I became a young adult and I took care of my sisters.

In 1999 I went back to southern Sudan and saw that my native area had been totally destroyed. The military controlled the area and the situation was very difficult. I felt there was no real opportunity to do something productive with my life.

I left Sudan to go to Egypt to find a secure place to live in peace and start a new life. It wasn’t easy to find a place like that. There were difficult times, and some Egyptian people were very provocative and hostile. But I endured those obstacles because I knew that when you leave your homeland, some obstacles await you wherever you go.

In 2003 I was approved to come to the United States and I moved to San Diego, Calif. As soon as I arrived, I faced two difficult things:

I faced a new language. Even though I knew a little bit of English, it was hard to understand the American people. They seemed to talk so fast and I was totally confused.

The culture was also new to me and I had trouble figuring out how to adapt.

In Sudan when you talk, you don’t have to look someone in the eyes, but here in the U.S., if you do not look at people’s faces, they think you are lying. That was new to me.

So for those reasons, I decided to go to adult education in San Diego. I attended the spring semester, but I didn’t complete it because I would fall asleep in class after working all night at a 7-11.

A friend told me that I could find a job in Maine with a good schedule so that I could also go to school. In December 2003, I moved to Portland, got a job at Barber Foods and started taking classes there. I was on the waiting list for adult education until I enrolled in April 2004.

It was been a long, long journey, but I am proud to be here in Portland, Maine.

I’m proud to be in the land of freedom and opportunity, which has given me a secure living, a permanent job, and the opportunity to enroll again in studying and pursuing my dreams.

Today, the fruit is ripening and the seeds of my struggle are being harvested.

Since I have been studying at adult education, my teachers have inspired me every day to learn more and do something good with my life. Their kindness, humility, rigor, responsibility and respect have touched my heart.

I thank my first teacher, who put me in a Wilson language study class. I also thank teachers who helped me with my pronunciation and made my voice be heard.

I will never forget those who inspired me to read and read, every day. You have given me a wonderful gift.

Portland Adult Education also matched me with a literacy volunteer. That was a big change for me. She taught me about American culture and how to fit into American society.

My tutor is like a spinal cord for me. She helps make my life comfortable and makes me feel at home in America.

But that’s just the beginning of my journey. I’m looking forward to doing something productive with my life, and I know Maine is the right place to pursue my dream and work hard to achieve it.