By Dejene Regassa
Dejene (“DJ”) Regassa, age 24, is an Ethiopian who requested political asylum in the United States in 2010. He is a world class long-distance runner who competed in six events in the U.S. before seeking asylum. He has been living at the Mission Helper Center in Baltimore since 2012. We asked him to share his thoughts on Thanksgiving from his unique perspective.
This will be my third Thanksgiving in the United States, and I am so, so grateful for everything that I have here. The first two Thanksgivings I did not really know what to make of the day and I kept thinking of my home and my family in Ethiopia. It was hard. This year, I am very conscious of all that I do have and want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me.
I am thankful to the U.S. government for granting me asylum, and am looking forward to receiving my green card shortly. I had to seek political asylum when my disagreements with the government in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia put me at risk of imprisonment. I knew people whose protests of government actions resulted in their arrest and imprisonment, and no one ever saw them again. I was a long-distance runner supported by the government, and my opposition resulted in my not being allowed to compete in the World Championship races in 2008, even though I had qualified.
I am very grateful to the Mission Helper Sisters for giving me a place to live. They have been a huge blessing in my life. They really know what it means to have “heart.” I think of the Sisters as my moms! Thank you, Sisters, for saving my life, for loving me, for trusting me, and for opening doors for me. I especially thank Sister Madeline Gallagher and Mrs. Pat Dodd-Celeste (Mission Advancement Director for MHSH).
I also want to thank Mrs. Molly Corbett, the Executive Director of Asylee Women Enterprises, for helping me with my asylum application, for introducing me to the Sisters and for her wonderful support.
I am trying to get visas for my wife and my 4-year-old son. I can’t wait until they get here; hopefully that will be soon.
Meanwhile, I am working at a Marriott Hotel as a dishwasher and am learning to become a cook. I was thrilled when I was named the outstanding associate of the third quarter this year! I also coach track part time at Notre Dame Prep School. I would love to find a job coaching track full time.
“Thank you” seems inadequate. I wish I had another word. I do say “God bless you” to all who have done so much for me and have given me a future filled with opportunities and hope.