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For One Man And His Family, West Virginia Is A New Life

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Ben Adducchio
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It's difficult to imagine a society where everywhere you go, you have to fear for your life, simply because of what you believe in. But for one man, it was his reality until he received asylum in the United States. He lives in Morgantown, and you can hear his story on West Virginia Morning.

His name is Teewende Sandwidi. He speaks seven languages, including four African tribal dialects, along with French, English and German. He's from Burkina Faso, a western landlocked country in Africa just north of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. More than 15 million people live there.

While Teeweende says Burkina Faso is a relatively safe country, it’s an underdeveloped place, where those in power have a large amount of wealth, and the poor are living in deplorable conditions. The president has been in power since 1987, and Teeweende says he rules by force. Restrictions on speech have been severe in Burkina Faso, as journalists and others who speak out against the government are killed. Teewende says his own criticism of government got him into very hot water, not just with officials, but even with his own parents, who gave him the nickname of “Trouble.”

"One issue was the case of female genital mutilations. There are laws that forbid but people keep practicing it, so talking about it was another issue," he said.

"But when you have experienced it, when you have seen your sisters and even your own spouse go through trauma, from going through these female genital mutilations, it appeals you to at least protect the others that are being born, our daughters and our young girls so they can have a better life."

When Teewende talks about his home country, he gets very emotional. He was the editor-in-chief of a newspaper that allowed students to get experience as journalists. He says he saw corruption first hand, and when his students wrote about it, things got more and more dangerous. He recalls one instance when someone in the streets threatened his, telling Teewende that his life wasn’t worth that of a chicken.

"I was targeting where money laundering was happening in the city, where you have for example kids not being able to go to school while the managers are building castles," he said.

"Were you to go to the hospital, you have to pay extra fees to nurses, which are already paid by the government, but they started a fee which goes into their pockets."

Teewende has been in Morgantown for three years. You can hear more of his story by listening to the audio link above.


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