Unlikely Friends Archives - StoryCorps

“It Feels Like a Gift”: How Taking a Name Kept One Man’s Legacy Alive

In 1981, the death of 21-year-old Cameroonian man Acha Mbiwan devastated his family. Losing Acha — known for his mischievous sense of humor and prodigious intelligence — sent shockwaves through the family’s tight-knit community.  

For more than 40 years, they found it difficult to even speak about Acha. But little did they know that Acha had befriended an American man in college named Atiba, who was so moved by Acha’s death that he took his friend’s last name, Mbiwan, as a tribute.

In 2012, Acha’s sisters Didi Ndando and Egbe Monjimbo learned of Atiba’s existence after stumbling across him on the internet. All three sat down for StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

This story was adapted from the StoryCorps Podcast. To hear the full story, listen to the episode: “One Who Is Understanding

Top Photo: Didi Ndando, Atiba Mbiwan, and Egbe Monjimbo at a reunion for Atiba’s family in Atlanta in 2014. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.
Middle Photo: Acha Mbiwan posing in a photo booth in 1980 in Paris, France. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Originally aired December 2, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition

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The ‘Heart’ of Heart Mountain: Japanese American Internment Through The Eyes Of A Child And His Unlikely Friend

On February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced relocation and incarceration of more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast. Families were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps, where they spent the remainder of the war as prisoners.

Shigeru “Shig” Yabu was just ten years old when he and his family were evacuated from their San Francisco home and sent to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Cody, Wyoming.

At 87, Shig came to StoryCorps with his grandson Evan to remember the thing that came to define his experience as an internee — adopting and caring for a bird named Maggie.

In 2007, Shig wrote a children’s book, titled Hello Maggie, about his experiences as an internee. To hear more of Shig’s story, check out the StoryCorps podcast.

Top Photo: Evan Yabu and Shigeru Yabu at their StoryCorps interview in Camarillo, CA in September 2019. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps. 
Middle Photo: A mid 1940s snapshot from the barracks at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Cody, Wyoming. Public Domain, Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority.
Bottom Photo: Cover illustration from ‘Hello Maggie.’ Courtesy of Shigeru Yabu.

Originally aired February 21, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.