‘THIS IS OPPORTUNITY COUNTRY’
Initiative to welcome New Americans aims to boost the entire state
BY LOIS R. SHEA, SENIOR WRITER, AND CONTENT MANAGER |
Mohammed Mustak has a lot to offer. Mustak studied chemistry in his native Myanmar. He speaks four languages. He has a passion for community organizing. He works three jobs: as a medical interpreter, as a recruiter for a staffing agency and as a community health worker. He participates in Nashua’s “City Academy,” and is a leader among the ethnic Rohingya people who have been settled in Nashua by the U.S. State Department. He was recently appointed to the Nashua Board of Aldermen’s Cultural Connections Committee.
Mustak also volunteers with One Greater Nashua, a broad-based initiative to integrate New Americans into the city’s civic, social and economic fabric. One Greater Nashua is part of the Endowment for Health’s Immigrant Integration Initiative to make meaningful connections between newcomers and longtime New Hampshire residents and help communities become more inclusive. Residents are working together to create vibrant, welcoming communities through activities to advance civic engagement and community leadership, increase economic opportunity and address anti-immigrant bias.
“They are welcoming me,” Mustak said. “We never got that chance in our country. I am working with the city, with everybody. Whoever is living in Nashua is my community.”
To the Mustak family, the concept of being welcomed is new.
Mustak’s people, the Rohingya, are stateless. Mustak and his family were denied citizenship in their native Myanmar. He was allowed to go to school — to a point. When he went to take the final exam to graduate from college so that he could go on to medical school, he said, officials demanded proof of his ethnicity. He was not allowed to graduate and was jailed for traveling the short distance to school. When he got out of jail, he fled to Malaysia, where the Rohingya are also not granted citizenship or allowed to attend public schools.
He applied for refugee status and, after an extensive process, was accepted to come to the United States. He wants his children to be able to reach their full potential and to become contributing adults in their American community.
“I wish their success and dignity and good hearts,” he said.
His son Rabiul, now in fifth grade, gets good grades, and “he has good relationships with his teachers. He has good character.” Rabiul wants to be a doctor.
Mustak’s daughter Alisha, born here two years ago, is the first official citizen — of any country — in the Mustak family. Because these children will grow up connected to their community, they will have greater opportunity to thrive.
“Here, we are welcome to learn,” Mustak said. “If you want to be, you will become that doctor or police officer.”
“This is opportunity country.”