Success abroad doesn’t always need one to cut corners
Selah Gaomi wears many hats — she is a scriptwriter, actress, spoken word artist and a gospel musician.
Selah who relocated to Germany in June 2010 and creates awareness about immigrants has a passion for the arts. “Art is inborn. I wrote my first book when I was in Class Five together with my friend, Rubin Alila, which we never got to publish. What inspired me to be an actress, do spoken word, gospel music and start hosting the Walking In The Light Diaspora show is my experience in Germany. The show hosts interviews with immigrants on their experiences abroad.
Selah says Germany was not all bliss as she expected. “I faced so many challenges and being a sheltered child, I didn’t know how to handle life and its challenges. They say life moulds us. My scriptwriting is all about life put together, the observations I make daily, my experiences and that of others all intertwined. The church I attended then appointed me a scriptwriter for church/Christian skits. I believe that all these things were present within me, waiting to be discovered, polished, and sprouted,” says Selah.
She says she was lucky to be a privileged child while growing up in Kenya. “While socialising with people of different nationalities was rare during those days, my siblings and I were already going out and meeting them. Things such as cars and house telephones were rare assets then, but I grew up exposed to a smooth life without struggle, different cultures and culinary. I had everything I wanted at my disposal,” says Selah who hails from Sakwa Bondo, in Siaya county
Her father was a senior principal in different colleges in Kenya while her mother was a nurse. “She still enjoys her profession and still helps a lot of people in her dispensary,” she explains.
Coming from a family of cheerful givers, Selah says their door was always open to relatives and friends. “My dad could give without reservations, and he made sure everyone around him was happy and comfortable. If he had a job opening, he would gladly help or connect you to someone who would help. He always went the extra mile. Growing up in this environment made me more inclined to give to others cheerfully without reservation and always want the best for others. I always feel fulfilled when I help,” she says of her father
However, when Selah relocated to Germany against her parent’s wishes, things took a twist. “As people in Kenya tarmac for jobs, so do immigrants here tarmac for a residence permit. This kind of tarmacking though is different because it involves your body, mind, soul and spirit. People would sleep with anyone just to get a residence permit. I realised it did not quite matter to some people who got entangled with others provided they got a stay permit. It was the ticket to a good comfortable life, or at least to some privileges. There were a lot of lies, betrayal and deceit. This was not me; hence I chose the painful path,” says Selah, a certified social worker in Germany.
The migration process was easy for her since she knew some Germans in the immigration officer who had worked with her father. Getting the visa at the embassy in Kenya was not a hassle. What became difficult was settling in Germany.
“I saw life for what it is and was. I struggled to settle down in Germany. One of the worst experiences was losing my stay permit and having to start over. I remember people would tell me, ‘now that you lost your permit, you will go back to +254 direct. We are waiting to see how police will chase you around.’ People would tell me how they were waiting to see where my values would land me. I knocked on many doors. To be honest, even lawyers could not help me. I remember my lawyer then asked, “Are you married? Do you have a child? Do you have someone to sign for you?’ All the answers summed up to ‘no.’ He told me he couldn’t help,” she says.
Selah then went to a Christian organisation, which got her the best lawyer only for him to tell her that there was no hope for her in Germany or the vicinity. With all the challenges she was facing, she fell into depression as she tried to be different by refusing to compromise her dignity.
She opines: “After I healed, I went to the authorities with my passport and explained my case. The police helped me. Currently, I have a German Blue Card, a residence permit for skilled workers, issued to non-EU nationals. I got it without telling lies, looking for a German spouse or giving birth. This empowered me to empower others by creating awareness and empowering immigrants. Since I could do it, I believe others too can do it.”
Life in Germany, she says, is quite tough compared to that in Kenya. “There is no social life. All you see are a lot of people with long faces. Life revolves around work and you. You cannot meet friends often. However, what I like about Germany is that their ‘yes’ is ‘yes’, and ‘no’ is ‘no’. Germans are law-abiding,” she says.
As a certified social worker, Selah works with children, families and asylum seekers. “We also offer to counsel where necessary. There is nothing better than seeing someone’s face light up with a smile,” she says.
She is the founder and CEO of A Dawning Hope Artistic. It offers counselling (Hope Cafe), hosts praise and worship events (intercultural), creates awareness through skits such as The Lies That Bind, inspires and empowers immigrants through Walking in the light Diaspora Show and promotes peace, healing and reconciliation between immigrants and natives. “A Dawning Hope Artistic began in January 2020. We have since witnessed a great impact given the feedback we receive from people we have reached. Being nominated in 2021 at the Tallberg Global Leadership Awards shows the impact we have made. It feels great and fulfilling to hear someone say, ‘you helped me settle in well.’ That shows we are making an impact,” says Selah.