New Americans In Ohio Have Hope For Better Life

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Roland Sunnyway with his family prepare to enjoy the holiday season.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)
Roland Sunnyway with his family prepare to enjoy the holiday season.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)

For two hundred immigrants in Ohio, they end 2011 as new American citizens. They were awarded citizenship at the recent International Festival in downtown Columbus. Many of them have escaped war and famine. They are adapting to their new home.

“How much you got here? Check it and see. I want to hear you counting….”

Roland Sunnyway Senior helps his 8-year-old son Rodney with math homework at their Blacklick home.

He came to the United States in 1998 after fleeing his native country Liberia in West Africa during 14 years of civil war that claimed more than 200,000 people. It was a dangerous time for him and his family. His father was killed in the war.

”When the war started in my country I fled to Ghana. I stayed in Ghana and lived there some time as a refugee, to be exact 8 years then I went back to Liberia for a couple of months and the war was still on, things were not so good,” Sunnyway says.

Since being in this country, life has been more promising for Sunnyway. He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration and an MBA in Global Management and Finance. He is a therapeutic program worker at the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Sunnyway says that he decided to become a citizen after 13 years because he was worried about changing immigration laws. Sunnyway feared his dream of becoming an American would not come true.

“If you look at it every time the immigration laws are changing. They come in with a lot of different laws so let me just go for the citizenship,” explains Sunnyway.

Sunnyway’s first American home was in Maryland. For the past 5 years, he’s lived in Central Ohio. He finds the cost of living easier in the Midwest than other parts of the country.

“It’s far more better than other countries around the world. I will tell you this is the best country on the face of the earth when it comes to opportunities. So, despite all the things that are going on in America here we still have hope,” says Sunnyway.

Sunnyway and his wife have five kids, two of whom were born in America. His niece Joann Tarpeh lives with them. She’s a sophomore at Licking Heights High School and looks forward to becoming a U.S. citizen.

“I have the opportunity to take my education to the farthest, to a better level. How far would you like to go? All the way. I want to be a doctor,” says Tarpeh.

Tarpeh doesn’t remember life in Liberia. She left when she was 9 years old. Even after the civil war ended, the nation of about 3.5 million people is one of the world’s poorest countries with an 85% unemployment rate.

Sunnyway was 1 of only 4 immigrants from Liberia to be awarded citizenship at last month’s International Festival.

He says while there are some cultural differences between his adopted nation and native country, Christmas traditions are similar. Both countries put gifts under the tree, and enjoy large meals and family gatherings.

“I hope I will just sit back December 25th with my family, relax and see how the day goes with my kids and my family,” says Sunnyway.

Next year Sunnyway will be able to do something he has not yet been able to do in this country-vote for President. And he holds aspirations to run for public office one day.

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