(AGWEEK) DICKINSON, N.D. — Barnabas Nyaaba has called Dickinson home for the past five years. It’s a lengthy 6,000-mile jaunt from his native country of Ghana, Africa — a move he’s glad he made.
“I’m pretty comfortable here. I do see myself staying,” he said.
As a curious college student who loved to travel, Nyaaba had visited many parts of the world before landing in North Dakota, including Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Texas. After finishing college, he had the chance to return to the states when he got a green card on the lottery system.
“The only friend I had here was in Dickinson,” he said. “He told me it was easier to get a job here in North Dakota and I said ‘Yeah, I’m coming up here.’”
That was five years ago, and since then, Nyaaba has found his footing, working as an assistant general manager at a local hotel and then on to a tech support role with Wex, a
financial technology solutions company based in West Fargo, North Dakota. The role gives
him the flexibility and stability he hoped for when moving to the states.
“With the pandemic and how that affected the service industry, I lost my job sometime around October last year,” he said. “I have friends in IT, and I saw they weren’t as affected as most of us in the service industry. I thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to pivot and find something that would give me that flexibility.”
In addition to career opportunities, Nyaaba has also found ways to incorporate some of the comforts of home. He’s involved with the Dickinson Soccer Club, and he’s also been able to connect with other fellow African immigrants in the community. Part of that connection has come through the Change Network. The Change Network supports year-long initiatives that drive positive change in communities. Mark Billings, now an alumni of the program, agrees that highlighting the unique qualities the immigrant population contributes to the community is important to Dickinson. He also understands how hard it can be to feel at home in a new place.
“They have to forge through many things we take for granted,” Billings said. “I moved here from Illinois, I had a car, I had an apartment and I had certain things I knew were going to be here. But in their world, they don’t have that. It’s a humbling experience.”
“I met Mark through the Change Network. He was looking to do a project that would highlight the African community in Dickinson and how we contribute in all sorts of ways,” Nyaaba said. “We ended up doing so many things, including a mural here in downtown, just to highlight the African presence in the community. Things like this make us feel welcome and it’s exciting.”
Nyaaba has also enjoyed the small community feel and the familiarity and comfort that comes through a landscape similar to his homeland.
“Northern Ghana is a lot like North Dakota. I’ve always told my dad when I speak with him on the phone that if he were to be here, he would feel so comfortable,” Nyaaba said. “Maybe apart from the cold.”
Nyaaba also believes that being in North Dakota opens the door to many opportunities.
“I believe if you’re willing to work, there are opportunities you can take advantage of,” he said. “So I can take advantage of those opportunities and see advancement here. I’m willing to give it a go.”
To learn more about Strengthen ND and how the organization helps build big opportunities in small communities, visit strengthennd.com.