By Johnnie Grant –
Like many South Sudanese people, Sarah Joseph-Majak and her family are refugees from the violence and turbulence of life there.
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sarah is the third of eight children. When she was six, her father relocated the family to Nairobi, Kenya. For Sarah it would be the last time she would see him.
Her mother struggled for several years to make ends meet; at times, days would pass before the children would have a bite of anything to eat.
“Without my mother I’m not sure what my life would have become,” says Sarah. “My mother has always been there for my siblings and me. She protected us, took care of us and she loved us. I love my mother dearly and I would do anything for her.”
In the impoverished refugee community of Kawangware where they lived outside of Nairobi, conditions were horrendous. “Not many good things happen there. It wasn’t easy for us at all. I know what extreme poverty is. I lived it. I saw it!” she exclaims.
In relating the experiences she has undergone, Sarah has yet to scratch the surface, though one day she hopes to tell her story in its entirety. “This isn’t even the tip of an iceberg. My story is very long, but I must say I’m thankful for life,” she says.
And as difficult as that story is, she is humbled and filled with gratitude for everything she has experienced and gone through. That includes her relocation to the United States.
“Settling in a new country without knowing anyone or the language to communicate was terrifying,” she admits. Nonetheless, with perseverance and grit—and while holding down a job at a barbeque restaurant for six years—Sarah graduated from at James B. Dudley High School and earned a degree in International Studies from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) in Greensboro.
Then, a few years ago, Sarah posted a picture on Facebook of her sister and herself. To her surprise, a photographer reached out to her. He talked with her about modeling, and told her he was interested in photographing her. And she has now become a part-time model, though she still retains a full-time day job.
“I remember being in awe about becoming a fashion model. It’s just so unreal for me!” she says. “One of my favorite quotes is by Khalil Gibran, something I read on a daily basis to keep me grounded. ‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.’”
Whatever scars the beautiful young model Sarah Joseph-Majak carries, they were earned in the suffering she faced as a refugee. Her mother kept hope alive in a place without hope, and Sarah has now found roads to a future that could never have been imagined in her childhood. Her strong soul was indeed forged through suffering, but her hopes, dreams, and future are strong and powerful indeed.