A story of perseverance, hope, resilience, and giving back.  

When Najati was just seven years old, she and her family fled war-torn Somalia to live in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The nine family members cooked, slept, ate, and sometimes used the bathroom in a small one-room tent. They were given flour, some oil and sugar, and beans for daily sustenance. Najati's mother taught her and her sisters to cook, and they became experts at using these ingredients to make chapati bread, which they sold on the streets of Kenya to buy clothes and other necessities for the family.

At the age of 21, Najati she married Ismael, who also lived in the camp. She spent a total of 15 years in the camp before a United Nations program resettled her and Ismael in Utah. As new immigrants, they suddenly had to learn English, adapt to the culture, and figure out how to use all the modern conveniences we take for granted. Throughout, they maintained a positive attitude, thankful for the opportunity to start a new life. 

After eight years of renting, Najati and Ismael applied for a Habitat home and were accepted into the program. They each quickly completed their 225 hours of sweat equity, learning valuable skills to be able to maintain their home during the process. With a zero percent, 30-year mortgage from Habitat, their house payment was almost half of what they had been paying in rent, and, unlike rent, the house payment would never increase.

They diligently saved the difference, which Najati later invested in opening a business. Drawing from her childhood experience, she launched the Namash Swahili Cuisine food truck, serving authentic Somali and Kenyan family recipes. She parlayed that success, opening a sit-down restaurant.  


“My Habitat home gave me the opportunity for success. Now, I use my home to help refugee children who have lost their parents. I call Utah my home and Habitat my family.”

Image of Najati and her family
In addition to raising their son (shown with his hands on the youngest boy), Najati and Ismael have fostered nine refugee children from four different counties, seven orphaned by war. Three of their fosters are grown and on their own - a nurse, a professional driver, and a college student. Two children were reunited with their parents. Four fosters and their son still live at home.  Najati says, “We have a happy home. I think of all the children as my own, and I will continue helping refugee children for as long as I can. ”



Top: An aerial view shows an extension of the Ifo camp, one of the several refugee settlements in Dadaab, Garissa County, northeastern Kenya, October 7, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola.

Middle: Najati and her Namash Swahili Cuisine. 

Bottom: Najati, Ismael, and their global family.