After being forced to leave her home country, Ubah Kahiye resettled here in Rhode Island as a refugee from Somalia in 2016 with the help of Dorcas International. Over the last three years, she has had to acclimate to a new environment, learn a new language, and build a new life for herself – and she has done all this while simultaneously becoming a well-known and positive presence in the Dorcas International and broader RI community. She spreads kindness and love by sharing her artwork and her story and by helping others. This includes the countless hours she has dedicated to volunteering at Dorcas International as a way to give back to the agency and to support newcomers who arrived after her.
She is frequently present at our events and is often sought out for her beautiful henna designs and colorful abstract paintings. She is a self-taught henna artist who learned techniques from a book when she was a child and uses this talent as a way to earn money and to connect with people in the community.
When Ubah is not attending classes, she is often volunteering. She dedicates her free time to helping others by assisting as a translator/interpreter here at the agency or by helping newly arrived refugees find their way around Providence and New England. She provides directions and enjoys showing newcomers local markets with familiar foods and ingredients that remind them of their home countries. Ubah has also accompanied people on the bus or train to help them find their way to important appointments. At times, she has even gone with people to Massachusetts so that they won’t have to travel alone or potentially get lost on the way back.
Ubah’s artistic abilities and kind nature have also helped her connect with newcomers in the Somali Women’s group. For two years, this amazing and therapeutic group was headed by a passionate volunteer named Stephen Brunelli before he moved out of state and Ubah took on a bigger role. Now, she helps keep this important art group together and thriving. The group is made up of women and girls from Somalia and serves as an outlet for artistic expression. The pieces produced in the group vary in concept and medium and reflect reality, personal history, or the imagination. Some of the art is also about finding peace, not only through drawing or painting but, at times, through singing.
Ubah says that she helps newcomers because she knows what it’s like for them to come to a new country and not yet know their surroundings, the common local language, or those in the community.
“I came before them, and I know a little English. So I can help.”
Ubah is always offering her assistance and seeking out new opportunities to help. She is a caring community member and volunteer who has offered her guidance and talent and touched many lives here at the agency.
Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island strives to create a welcoming environment for all, working to empower the most vulnerable among us for more than 100 years. We meet our clients where they are by providing integrated, wraparound programs and services helping those seeking to overcome educational, cultural, economic, and language barriers.