Omar Mohamed Scatters Stars Across Maine

“No one chooses to be a refugee.”
—Omar Mohamed

As American debates how and if refugees can cross its border with Mexico, as refugees in Gaza and Sudan cannot find a place of safety, and as 48 million refugees worldwide wait to rebuild a home, are there any more important words than this?

Omar Mohamed, the Somali American co-creator of the award-winning graphic novel When Stars Are Scattered and the founder of the nonprofit Refugee Strong came to Maine to speak to 2,000 middle school students and community members in April 2024. Each student and community member that met Omar received a copy of his book! View photos from the tour.

I’m Your Neighbor Books’ Omar Mohamed tour and book giveaway was brilliantly and generously sponsored by and Writers & Artists Across the Country (WAAC) with the additional and crucial support of Black Owned Maine/Good Shepherd, Maine Humanities Council, First Book, Gateway Community Services, Ruby & Hart Foundation, New York Life Foundation, Lesher Family Foundation, Gideon Asen, Brann & Isaacson, AudioFile Magazine, Martin’s Point Health Ccare, Amjambo Africa, and Co-Lab Create.

 

“Who pays the biggest price in war? Children.”
—Omar Mohamed

What price did Omar and his younger brother Hassan pay? At the ages of 4 and 2, they were forced to flee their home when the war came to their father’s field. Having witnessed their father’s death and not knowing their mother’s fate, they walked for 3 months until they arrived at Dadaab Refugee Camp. They stayed in Dadaab for 14 years. Both boys were resettled in America thanks to Omar’s academic achievements in the camp’s schools. When Stars Are Scattered, an incredibly engaging read for all ages and backgrounds, covers their time at Dadaab.

“I am who I am because of the people that helped me.”
—Omar Mohamed

Who did Omar become? The readers who met Omar Mohamed had that question answered at the 11 events I’m Your Neighbor Books hosted in three Maine cities. He became the founder of Refugee Strong, an organization supporting education at the Dadaab Refugee Camp with school supplies, school building improvements, the construction of libraries, and, even, the distribution of period products to help girls continue their education. Readers of the book he co-created with Victoria Jamieson make up 90% of  the donors to Refugee Strong!

“One mean thing has an impact What is the impact of kindness?”
—Omar Mohamed

I’m Your Neighbor Books invited Maine students to donate $5 for a notebook for a Dadaab student and to write a message for that student to be inserted into the cover of the notebook. One student wrote:

Hi, my name is ____ and I am from Afghanistan. I was inspired by the book When Stars Ares Scattered because I lived in a refugee camp. I want you to keep reading. Don’t give up on your dreams. There were days when I wanted to give up and I thought my life was over. It can be hard. School saved my life.  DREAM.

 

“The book’s title has two meanings. Sometimes we had no roof so we were exposed to the stars…And [refugees] …could have been stars in their home, but now they are stars…scattered around the world.”
—Omar Mohamed

I’m Your Neighbor Books not only brought Omar Mohamed and his book to middle schools, but also to community members in partnership with Gateway Community Services. Thanks to the support of Black Owned Maine/Good Shepherd, the community came together for two meals catered by Hooyo’s Kitchen, Jaffa Mediterranean Grill, and the Mogadishu Store.

At one event, we were lucky enough to be joined by junior reporter Quentin Cyusa who interviewed the author and refugee advocate.

If we cannot get our wish for all of our stars to remain and shine in their own homes, we can wish that all those that are scattered become the stars that Omar Mohamed so clearly has.

Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters who let readers in Maine be inspired by Omar’s shine.