A Nomad Girl: Raises her children in Rochester

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Written by By Habibo A. Haji, R.N., Photography By Mike Hardwick Photography

I was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, where it is always sunny and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Given up by my mother at the age of 6 months, I went to live with my grandmother in a remote, primitive village. As a toddler, while grandmother grazed the sheep and goats in the grasslands, I was left to stay in the hut by myself. We slept on the dirt floor. 


This year’s Mother’s Day celebration is especially meaningful to Jennifer Schwertfeger and her family, as they mark the 10th year since the birth of their middle daughter, Grace. Born prematurely and nicknamed “Amazing Grace” by healthcare workers and family members, Grace spent the first year of her life as a resident of Mayo Clinic’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Saint Marys Hospital. 



Rochester’s Own: Historical Places of Faith

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Written by By Debi Neville

What is Rochester’s oldest building in continuous use for the same purpose? If you are playing Rochester trivia, you may score points with the answer to this question:



Surviving Tsunami Waves: Resilience through Narrative

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Written by By Anne Scherer

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku, Japan, ending the lives of 19,000 people and devastating the landscape and livelihood of those who survived. Tohoku survivors are healing through community engagement in art and sharing. On March 11-20, their art and voices will be seen and heard in Rochester at an event called “Surviving Tsunami Waves.”

In the spring of 2011 Yuko Taniguchi, professor of writing at the University of Minnesota-Rochester, was overcome by grief at news of the tsunami. Yuko and Japanese friends in the United States organized various fundraising events. 


Elder Network’s mission is to utilize resources, services and education to provide optimal quality of life for individuals impacted by the effects of aging. Elder Network reaches out to individuals, as well as their caregivers and emphasizes the importance of keeping aging loved ones in the home.


Adolescence is a confusing time for young people. The inner turmoil of emotional growth and physical development is especially pronounced for students who are from different cultural backgrounds than their American peers. Many experiences are similar, despite cultural differences: the anxieties of grades, friendships, first loves and choosing a college. But adding in the pressure of a different culture can be especially overwhelming. Such is the case of the protagonist in Helen Chen’s young adult novel, “Jin-Ling’s Two Left Feet.”  




There’s nothing quite like robots to get kids excited about science and teamwork. Just a glimpse of the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament demonstrates how electric the learning environment can be. The tournament is run like a sporting event, and the kids radiate energy as they watch their Lego robots compete to accumulate points. 

FLL is a volunteer-led, after-school program that gets kids in grades 4-8 interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and careers through the use of Lego robotics. Kids meet weekly to practice computer programming and tone social skills before they compete at the tournament with robot runs, teamwork exercises and research project presentations. 



Grow Where You Are Planted: Life as a newcomer in Rochester

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Written by Shweta Raikar Anavekar


In December 2008, I arrived in Rochester, Minnesota. When I stepped out of Rochester International Airport, the first thing I noticed was the bitter cold. It was so cold that I felt I would be warmer in the freezer with the frozen vegetables. The Minnesota cold is a cold that you just have to experience. I knew that my life would be different. I was excited to be embarking on a journey from India to the land of opportunity and freedom, but there were aspects of this transition which took me by surprise. 

The first surprise was when I finally reached my new home. It was different. There was no longer the smell of the hot Indian summer or the scent of incense in the air. I did not come home to a kitchen overflowing with the sounds of my mother and sister coordinating the preparation of a three-course meal. I realized that it was just my husband and me. I was also apprehensive when I realized that he would be working and would be apart from me for a significant portion of time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I appreciate the sacrifices he had made for me. 



Rochester Author Abbie Williams: Newest novel “Heart of a Dove”

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Written by Catherine H. Armstrong


Rochester author Abbie Williams penned her ninth novel “Heart of a Dove,” the first in a new trilogy. Released by Central Avenue Publishing in December 2014, “Heart of a Dove” is a beautifully written novel about Lorie, a young woman who is orphaned in the days following the Civil War and sold into the slavery of prostitution at the tender age of 15. A former Confederate soldier—a customer—realizes that he knew her family in the days before the war. His southern honor will not allow him to leave her behind, so he rescues her. Together with two other men and a young boy, they begin their trek by wagon train toward a new life in Minnesota. 

Story about Love

Inspired by her favorite novel, “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry, Williams brings the sights, sounds and hardships of the wagon train to life through the eyes of its main character. Lorie is a gentle, educated young woman who is trapped in the life of a prostitute. Through Lorie, we are reminded of the inner strength that can see us through the most desperate of times and the healing that is found through unconditional love and acceptance.  



Worth Singing About

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Written by Debi Neville

Southeast Minnesota a cappella Festival

It’s not about numbers. It’s not about size. It’s about notes—musical notes, that is. On November 11, 11 choirs will converge on Lourdes High School for the fourth annual Southeast Minnesota a Cappella Festival. The phrase, “a cappella” is Italian for “in the style of the chapel,” a style of singing without instrumental accompaniment. The event features high school, collegiate and post-collegiate choirs.


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