LCFF is honored to share Ms. Furtuna Tekle’s story as part of our goal of bringing the stories of the people who live, work and play in Lake City to Enjoylakecity.org. Furtuna is an inspiration to us all.
“Awklenan! Yakiel, Yakiel!” “ Dictator! Enough is Enough!” I was the only young woman on the
sidewalk, but my voice was strong. The few other women were my mother’s age. All the men
were old, including my father. Yet we were giving our voices to the people walking and driving
by. The American passersby responded, “We are with you!” Our confidence and pride grew,
blunting the scornful laughter and threats of my fellow Eritrean classmates passing by and
through the festival gate. This was my first protest. My first freedom of expression.
Seattle leaders had allowed Eritrean government officials to present a festival in my new city,
my new home. But the festival was not a true reflection of Eritrean society. It was a lie dressed
in the beautiful fabric of my Habesha culture. A lie masked by the delicious aromas of Injera and
steaming clay pots of Doro Wat in festival booths. A festival hiding a dictatorship that ripped my
family from our mother country.
I would not go through the festival gate. Because of the strength and pride of my family, I was
able to identify the propaganda that divided my country of birth. Eritrea is ruled by fear not by
law. This was a psychological torture to me as a young girl and to my family. I was not able to
breathe peace and freedom. Even my first breaths were controlled by the dictator. For example,
my father was forced to work as a nurse in a hospital far away for 6 months at a time. When my
mom was almost ready to give birth to me, my dad was taken away to work. He did not see me
for the first time until I was 4 months old. If he had refused to go in order to see my first breath,
he would have been jailed. He chose my name, which is ‘’Furtuna.” The word is derived from
Italy; it means Opportunity.
I am grateful that my father had the courage to flee Eritrea in 2006. I have taken advantage of
his courage to seek freedom and education for our family. Especially his encouragement to me
as his daughter to get an education for a bright future. During the seven years our family lived
in the Ethiopian refugee camp, I won first place in my class every year. I was excited when we
finally got our visas to resettle in America. However, during our first year, our new American life
was challenging. After three months we became homeless because we were unable to pay rent.
We went to a homeless shelter but they said they had no space for a family of six. I cried very
hard. My mom was pregnant. At this time I almost gave up. I went with my family to a tent city to
sleep overnight. I was allergic to the smells that I had never smelled in my life. At that time I
became a second hand smoker. That night I saw a lot of drugged people who could not control
their body. I was afraid of even going out of the tent to go to the bathroom. I slept on top of a
basket with a single blanket. In America we gained our freedom of speech, but not freedom
from hunger or cold.
This year, my family has found a new apartment. I have 3.61 GPA. I love to serve my
community food bank with a passionate and strong perspective. I dedicate my time to my family
after school every single day. I am taking Running Start classes. I hope to enroll at a 4-year
college to major in Chemistry or Math. I hope to become a doctor. At college, I am also happy to
share my perspective and life journey with my classmates. I am fulfilling the meaning of the
name my dad chose for me.”
Ms. Furtuna Tekle is a 20-year-old high school senior who has overcome unimaginable challenges on her own, but now she needs your help to fulfill her dream of attending college.