MPW.64 / Troy Luke’s American Life by Nick Schnelle
Photographer
Nick Schnelle St. Louis, Missouri
Team Stryker

Story Summary

When 8-year-old Akalu Bikila was about to eat his first cheeseburger in the US he didn’t put ketchup on it because it reminded him of blood. For the first six years of his life he lived in a homeless shelter with his family in Ethiopia. For the next two years he and his sister Tadelu lived in an orphanage after his father could no longer support them due to a severe injury from a car accident. Akalu and his sister were uncertain about their future until June 2010 when they were adopted by Lacy and Todd Gambill, who changed their names to Luke and Anna.

Although the cultural backgrounds of the two countries are enormous, Luke developed quickly to his new environment of Troy, Mo.

“From the very beginning all they wanted to be was American,” Todd says. “They were so excited to have American names and all they wanted was to talk in English.”

After his first twelve weeks he could no longer speak his native language, even though he didn’t know any English before. Now at 10-years-old, Luke is popular amongst his classmates, involved in sports and attends extra curricular activities, though he still has steps to take to feel on par.