There’s no place like home for Somali refugees in Greeley (Colorado, US)

Lisa Rab – Westword (Denver) – 26 Nov, 2008

Zuheyra was freezing on the evening of September 5, even colder than usual because she was starving. The knife she used to slice fat off the endless slabs of raw beef lining up before her felt heavy in her cramped hands, and the frigid, sterile air in the meat-packing plant did nothing to quench the dryness in her mouth.

She had been standing there for four and a half hours, her 22-year-old body covered with the nearly twenty pounds of protective gear — a heavy jacket, hard hat, gloves — required for workers at the JBS Swift & Company plant in Greeley. The extra weight, combined with the empty pit in her stomach, made Zuheyra dizzy.

She was accustomed to the soreness in her muscles, the nightly routine of massaging her neck and shoulders to remove the ache in her knife-wielding arm. But this hunger was an extra burden, and it didn’t change in spite of the bloody carcasses all around her. It was the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims must fast from sunrise to sundown every day. Zuheyra, who didn’t want her last name used in this story because she still works at Swift, hadn’t eaten in fourteen hours. She was counting the minutes until her 7:30 p.m. break, when she could finally have some water and a snack. . .

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