The Search for a Sango Speaker: Success!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a California social worker who was desperately seeking someone who spoke Sango, an indigenous language in the Central African Republic, who could translate for a 17-year-old refugee who arrived in San Jose in December. I put out a call on Twitter, and several other groups and organizations were mobilized into action by this inspiring article in the San Jose Mercury News.

I have some good news to report: We found someone! A local NBC news affiliate tells this amazing story.


Over email Samedi’s social worker, Thuy Tran of Catholic Charities, offers some details of his harrowing story that have been revealed through this newfound ability to communicate.

“I learned through the translators that Samedi’s older brother, Raymond, indicated that the rebels murdered their parents and cut off his right arm. The rebels planned to wait for Samedi to come home to kill him but decided to leave because the wait was too long. To our utter surprise, Raymond disclosed that they have 2 more brothers that are out there somewhere. One of them is actually blind! We’re unsure if the 4 brothers split because they thought it was easier to run/hide in small numbers or that they lost contact while fleeing from the rebels. This history is getting more and more heartbreaking and obviously traumatizing. From what I can understand, Samedi chose to run with Raymond so that he can care for him.

Personally, I cannot say with certainty that the information shared by Raymond is 100% accurate. Due to his fragile mental state, Raymond’s recall of events can have minor changes/inconsistency every time he speaks of the past. Now that we have access to more translators, I can now learn more about my client slowly but surely. Since this was a meet-and-greet type of meeting, I did not want to bombard Samedi and Raymond with too many personal, trauma-induced questions.”

This story is certainly very disturbing, but I am profoundly happy that a community has rallied around these young people and are giving them the ability to have their story understood. Hopefully, the healing can start.