Oasis Jimma, More than a Juice Bar

by Tasneem Alghamdi and Yiwei Xu

Starting a small business is daunting, especially when you are an immigrant trying to adjust to a new life. Abdi Abajebel is a living example of how “everything is possible”.

Abajebel started Oasis Jimma Juice Bar not just because he wants to make his own living, but also to share his experience as healthy juices helped him cope with diabetes.

Abdi Abajebel tells us how he started the business and keeps it running.
Abdi Abajebel stands in front of his juice bar in West Harlem, New York. Photo by Yiwei Xu.

Abajebel lived in a refugee camp for almost five years, and his health condition worsened when he moved to New York City in 2004, mainly because he relied on fast food.

“I go visit a doctor to look at me and increase the dosage of insulin I take, but it didn’t help me that much.” Said Abajebel. “My liver enzyme is very high, and my kidney function is getting lower.” he added.

As he realized the hazards of junk food, Abajebel started to consider a healthy diet. He gradually switched to a vegetable-heavy diet and sugar-free juices made of greens. This new approach to eating helped him regain control to his health. Today, he doesn’t take medication.

Abdi Abajebel preparing juices at his bar in West Harlem, New York. Photo by Yiwei Xu.

“My food philosophy is very simple. The food system in America became very bad because we eat processing food or import food,” said Abajebel.

Abajebel’s brought the sense of unity he experienced in the refugee camps to his juice bar. He likes to give free juices, that’s his way to remember the old days and his friends. He said they had less in the refugee camp, but they shared more.

“From back home I miss a lot and mostly, sharing,” Abajebel recalled. “If you share something, there is no judgment, “he added. When he shares and give out free juices in New York people, question his intentions.

“We give from our heart even if we don’t have,” Abajebel said.

Abdi Abajebel at Oasis Jimma Juice Bar in West Harlem, New York. Photo by Yiwei Xu.

And like most newcomers, Abajebel wants to contribute to the community and give back to a place he could finally call “home”.

One takeaway from Abajebel’s experience is as he advised: “don’t waste your time and some other people will tell you what’s right for you but take the chance and work hard.”

“You are here, so everything is possible if you rely on yourself and take the risk,” he added.

Despite financial difficulties and skepticism about his motives for giving out free juices, Abajebel kept doing what he always does — sharing his experience and juices with the community. Abajebel said he wants to live to help and give to others, both for himself and for the sake of his friends who didn’t make it to the US.