In 1997, at age 11, Yusuf Hansia moved to Mill Valley, CA from Bahrain to live with his grandparents. He remembers
the culture shock and always being asked to repeat himself two or three times because of his accent. But culture shock wasn’t the only issue for Yusuf. He was raised predominantly by his grandparents because of a strained relationship with his very strict father. His father traveled for work and, “once every six months, he would appear and when he was around, it was all about having your head down in a book,” Yusuf says about his dad. “No friends to socialize, no play to experience. When he was around, it was his way. I don’t recall how many times I was kicked out of the house, but it was a lot, and for minuscule reasons.”
After three years of living with his grandparents in Mill Valley, Yusuf and his siblings were sent back to live with his father in Bahrain. Life with his father was tense. “It was like living with a stranger,” he said. “We didn’t know our dad. He wasn’t a friend. We couldn’t find common ground. We lived in high anxiety, on high alert, careful of what we would say or what we would do. At one point, I was homeless for a week, and I was also sent to jail for protecting my brother and my sister.”
Yusuf was able to work with both the U.S. Consulate and Ambassador to help him and his siblings return to Mill Valley. Once back in the States, his grandparents refused to let him stay with them. That was when a social worker stepped in and introduced him to Huckleberry’s Nine Grove Lane shelter in San Anselmo.
“Huckleberry welcomed me with open hands without prejudice. It was there where I saw the fundamentals of an American household – they had curfews, chores, scheduling, most importantly understanding of emotions– things I didn’t have growing up.” He stayed at Nine Grove Lane for a both younger and older kids that struggled more or less like me.”
Now a father himself, Yusuf’s relationship with his dad is a work in progress. “I still keep in touch with him.” He said, “I feel that I can’t move forward when I hold a grudge.” His time at Huckleberry made a huge impact on the way he raises his own kids, and how he spends his time volunteering. “I’m involved with kids who need support. What’s better than coming from someone who’s been there, done that.”