Meet Abra

Abra Balouki smilesAbra grew up in a village in northern Togo. After high school, she moved to the capital city of Lome to pursue a college degree. Despite her promise as a student and her passion for learning, social injustices coupled with scarce opportunities and prevented Abra from realizing her dream of becoming a nurse. She left school and began work as a secretary.

Passion and a Sense of Purpose
The first step in Abra’s journey began in 2004 when she won the Diversity Visa lottery and immigrated to the United States. Driven by passion and a sense of purpose, she was ready to pursue her dream of a real career, a good job, and a new start in the America she had learned about as a teenager.

I always wanted to be a nurse, but I ended up as a secretary. In Togo, only those with money can pursue professional degrees. GPA and hard work don’t matter. Here, I know they do. I wanted to come to America to fulfill my career potential. The Institute is helping me do that.

On Christmas Eve eight years ago, Abra left the balmy warmth of Togo and the only life she knew to travel 6,127 long miles from Lome, Togo to Saint Paul, Minnesota.

I came to America alone. I was afraid of the weather, the whiteness and whether or not I would make it here.

The climate, the culture, and limited language skills challenged Abra: it was difficult to find a job. Then, a friend told her about the International Institute of Minnesota and everything began to change.

International Institute Opens Doors
In 2006 Abra walked through the Institute doors for the first time, passed the Nursing Assistant entrance exam, and began again on her journey toward a never-forgotten dream. After successfully completing the Nursing Assistant Training Program, Institute staff helped Abra find a full-time, permanent position with St. Anthony Park Home.

Today, Abra continues to work at St. Anthony Park Home where she remains close to her residents:

They are so lovely. I can’t wait to finish my required work so I can spend time with them and hear their stories. They tell stories about the past. They are like my parents … .my mom is very old, and when I am with them, I feel like I am helping her, too.

More Steps ForwardAbra talking
After six years of steady employment in a field she loves, Abra is taking more steps toward fully realizing her childhood dream. Once again, Abra walked through the Institute doors, eager to improve her language skills and expand her nursing education. The Institute’s College Readiness course prepared Abra for college, and the Institute’s Medical Career Advancement services provided Abra with counseling and tuition assistance. Today, Abra is enrolled in Saint Paul College’s LPN program and will receive her diploma next spring.

What Abra Likes Best About Minnesota

I love my friends— at the Institute, at work, in the community. There are many people in Minnesota that like to help: People like to help people in Minnesota. They just care: they will always find a way to help.

That help has made a difference. Abra is steps away from completing her degree and will graduate in May as a LPN. After, Abra hopes to work as a nurse, perhaps with the same employer. Then, she’ll continue her studies and complete her RN and MSN degrees with a focus on gerontology so she can help her residents even more.

The Journey Continues
Looking back on the steps that have led her here and the path ahead, Abra says

In life we struggle. It’s important to face it. You must embrace the struggle and march on. I am still on the journey struggling to be an American, I am still scared of traffic and the weather and other things American. But I am on the path and I am moving forward.

Please consider making a donation to ensure that Abra and others continue to find their way.