Wassa arrived at PSOT in the year 2000. In his country, Gambia, Wassa contested votes and was a political worker. His life went south when Yayeh Jammeh rose to power and became dictator. Wassa recalls, “He wanted me to work with him but I refused because I don’t believe that any government should come to power through the barrel of a gun.”
With his refusal came daily threats, intimidations, violence and imprisonments.
“My family was very scared. They saw what was happening to me in our country. We had to leave our village to hide them somewhere safe,” Wassa shudders. “The police and soldiers would come into our home every day to arrest me, guns in hand. They told me that I was the voice of the opposition and that I would be silenced,” he continued.
Wassa knew that staying in the country, with his family would only lead to death and endangerment of his family. After witnessing the deaths of countless colleagues, due to the complications of their torture, he decided to flee the country.
Being in the United States without his family was difficult. He feared, “The dictatorship could have picked them up and used them against me. They weren’t able to get me so they could have used my kids, my family.” In the initial years of Wassa’s arrival, he feared the police in New York because of his trauma and did not truly feel free until he gained asylum and was able to petition for his family. “I worked two jobs to bring them and sustain my family in Gambia—it was very hard.”
His family finally arrived in 2003, all five children and his wife.
Wassa recounts, “This country opened its arms for me. It did all it could for me. Giving is a tradition and culture in America. Giving and helping is in Americans’ first names. I can never forget the horrible, brutal torture that I experienced at the hands of Presidents and state agents in Gambia-- but we are all free now. We are happy now all because of the work we have done with PSOT."
All five children are going to school or enrolled in colleges. Wassa himself is looking to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, but does not have the funds.
It is not too late; you can help families like Wassa’s today.
Share Wassa's story and tell us why you give on #GivingTuesday.