Hidden Voices: Alliot profile: Saima Turan and her life behind the scene

By Habeba Ramadan Ali

Arts and Culture Editor

Monday through Thursday, Saima Turan wakes at 6 a.m. and gets ready to go to her job. She drives to St. Michael`s College where she puts on an apron and sterile gloves, and serves food for nine hours to hundreds of students.

On a recent Tuesday, the day is predictable, with tasks that include ladeling sauce and filling the bins of chicken tenders, and smiling when she dishes the food to hungry students. But Turan’s life has been anything but predictable. Born and raised in Bosnia, she married and had three children but everything changed for her family in the 1990s, when war broke out and ethnic cleansing became a weapon.

“This place is my second home and everybody around me treats me with love and care,” said Turan, who has worked in Alliot for years.

Q. Behind the quiet woman you are, I must assume that there is a big story hidden in there?

Due to the war, I had to look for somewhere else where my two sons can live a better life. I was lost and I thought that I might not be able to find a place where people accept me for who I am and offer a better life for my children. However, God has his own plans that led me here to Vermont.

My sister was able to help me to start over in Vermont and find job to pay the bills and create a life for my children. Here I am survived from all of that, and I was able to fulfill my duty as a mother for two sons.

Saima Turan prays her third prayer of the day in the meditation room in Dion student center. Photo by Habeba Ramadan

Q: How does plainly showing that you practice a different religion from some people make you feel here in Vermont?

I am Muslim and there is no shame in letting it out and saying it to the whole world. But we as humans usually feel insecure when we are different from the others around us. It was a challenge applying to work because of my head covering. To be honest, I expected the worst. But I was amazed. Everybody welcomed me warmly and purely asking to get to know me more. They all help me whenever I needed help and I have never received a cold hand from any of them.

This actually is one of the reasons that makes me loving what I am doing even if it is really exhausting and tiring. A place where I can see beautiful happy faces is enough for me to keep smiling and feel lighted even if I am tired and exhausted, I believe that the word hatred does not exist in this place.

Q: How do people react to your head covering?

Believe it or not, they love it and they love how I change the colors from now and then. Some of them asked me how do you do it or from where do you buy it while others actually were praising me saying, “This color looks good on you.”

More and more I believe that the environment of this college is subconsciously giving students acceptance of perceiving differences.

There was an American student who was so interested in knowing me and my family more so, I invited her in my home and cooked her one of my best dishes and all of the family ate and talked about variety of topics and she never felt bored nor an outsider. She as a matter of fact before leaving said that she felt as if she were in her house.

No matter how you look, giving people your best smile and warming welcome is all what takes for people to fall in love with who you are and what your culture is.

Q: Through all these remarkable incidents and your daily life hassles, do you at the end of the day have a dream or a goal to think of?

I have a dream and it is really big. Maybe for others it might be nothing special, but all I wish for is that my children will stay healthy and safe.

I usually think that the world has so many beautiful features that we do not appreciate and I believe that people would crossover to the other side only if others showed kindness and love. Being who you are is so unique and beautiful no matter how different you are.