Thousands of people live and work in Central Minnesota, so a group of about 500 might be easy to miss.
Most of those 500 people, however, are in a new country and learning new customs while trying to keep a tight grip on the traditions that came with them to America.
That group — the Oromo, an East African ethnic group rooted in the Oromia region of Ethiopia — has been coming to the area for the past 10 years. But it wasn’t until recently they had any local group designed specifically to their needs and to help them with the transition.
“They need help with various things as simple as language, to education to transportation — everything you can think of,” said Mohamed Webo, executive director of the Midwest Oromo Community. “We help each other with everything we can.”
The St. Cloud-based Midwest Oromo Community provides a wide variety of assistance to fellow Oromo who are still getting acclimated to the area.
Webo, a 26-year-old former St. Cloud State University student and Oromo himself, said that since its creation in 2008, MOC has worked with the St. Cloud Police Department, the St. Cloud school district and surrounding counties to help them understand the Oromo community and find ways to better integrate the two cultures.
Almost 35 percent of the population in Ethiopia in 2007, or more than 25 million people, were of Oromo decent. That number was up by more than 8 million people from 1994. Despite being the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Oromo have often faced oppression in their homeland, causing many to emigrate to places such as Kenya and Somalia, Webo said. Some made their way to the United States.
“We’re here in America so we can bring our children up in a certain way … so they can be more disciplined, so they can educate themselves, they can think for themselves,” said Oromo elder Abdurazaq Adam through Webo’s translation. “All of this adds up to make our children better so they can build a better society.”
Adam made his way to Minnesota in 2006, so he understands the difficulties of trying to integrate into a different culture. He uses that experience to help Oromo who are dealing with the transition.
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