Nasir Bin Zakaria: Uniting the Rohingya Culture in Chicago

Nasir runs a community center for his fellow Rohingya Muslims, a religious group that has faced genocide in his home country of Myanmar. In 2012 he moved to Chicago with his family, influenced by movies that depicted the city in a positive light. Nasir loves the people of Chicago, especially how willing his neighbors were to volunteer at his organization.

This story was produced by One Chicago, a campaign that facilitates access to resources and support for Chicago’s residents, including its immigrant and refugee communities. Since its founding, people from around the country and throughout the world have made Chicago their home.

“My name is Nasir Bin Zakaria, I was born in Burma, Myanmar.

2008-2012 was very dangerous due to the genocide. They are killing people, ruining people. It is a very bad government that killed education, culture, and everything. My life is gone. When my future kids, you know, say ‘Oh I want to go to Chicago. Why’d you pick Chicago?’ Chicago is nice, in more ways it’s very nice. So, I chose Chicago.

I moved to Chicago in 2013. Then, just in my mind, I thought ‘How can we open one, a community center?’ But we didn’t have a budget, we didn’t have money. People in Chicago show a lot of support for our center, about education. We have so many good volunteers, very nice people. From the heart, they come to our center: ‘How can we help you?’

So, last year we opened: it’s the Rohingya Culture Center. Everyone needs help. We are teaching about law in the United States, teaching English as a second language. For example, someone goes to the hospital, they get medicine, how many tablets do they have to take? They don’t know how to read. The people put it in their pocket, come to our center, and ask, ‘Can you read it for me?’ ‘How many tablets do I take?’ For kids, we help tutoring with homework. So, every volunteer that comes in takes care of everything about the ESL class, tutors with homework; they help with everything.

When I go to the center, we can tell our kids, to remind them, who we are, where we come from. They can’t forget it’s the Rohingya culture. So, everyone comes together, learns together: so, our goal is one.

In Chicago, people come to help us; there are amazing people in Chicago. So, I love Chicago.”