I was 10 years old when I arrived in Australia. The resettlement process was quite tough in many aspects, for me and my siblings. We found it difficult to communicate with our peers at school, and we quickly understood that learning the language was our number one priority.
The main challenge I faced as a child in Australia was the transition from a survival lifestyle to a lifestyle of opportunities and freedom. It was easier for my siblings and me to pick up the language quickly and also to adapt quite rapidly to some aspects of the Australian culture, but for our parents it was extremely difficult. They found the entire resettlement process impossible, from learning the language to obtaining a job. But luckily, Australia - thanks to its historic migrant intake - has developed many specialist service providers, and the agencies that were developed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s became quite handy for many refugees that arrived in the ’90,s thus making the difficult resettlement process a little bit easier.
Growing up in the flats of inner Melbourne, I came across many challenges, and experienced a disconnection from many aspects of social integration. Many of the young people I grew up with were without a father and a mentor so many were easily disengaging from society altogether. Many young refugees were disenfranchised and disconnected from society due to this lack of role models in the community and the predominance of single parent households. Furthermore, there were the common stereotypes and negativity from the community -"you are a refugee and black, so this society won’t accept you", "why is unemployment so high in the community? It’s because no one likes to employ refugees" and so on.
So the situation of my community inspired me to act. I promised myself that I had to put an end to the negativity and the lack of role models in the community, by creating opportunities for young people to participate in sports and employment. We believe that the best settlement method for young refugees is to combine education, employment and sport together as a single settlement service. We created the Australian Somali Football Association - which has since held the two biggest Somali/Horn of African events in Australia - and launched the Sustainable Employment and Economic Development (SEED) project. Since we created these projects, many of the community youth have re-engaged in society, members of the community have been placed in employment and have been provided with opportunities for physical activity through sport.
My advice to anyone working with refugees is to empower the communities that they are providing services to. Refugee communities work well and positively integrate into the wider society when empowered by services providers and government agencies. Practitioners should start employing refugees to deliver services to other refugees, and in some cases allow refugee communities to drive projects designed to enhance the wellbeing of the community.
My future ambitions are vast, but in the short-term I would love to continue my work in transforming the ‘resettlement process’ and empowering refugees to take control of their futures and dream to inspire. I would also love to become a UNHCR Youth Ambassador and replicate some of my work in refugee camps around the world.
My final message is that refugees can be easily integrated into society with the right method of service delivery. The Somalis are suffering the most in the world today, as terrorism, civil war, piracy and famine tighten their grip on that godforsaken land, and I kindly ask NGOs, community groups and all concerned human beings to lobby on behalf of the millions of Somalis displaced by bad governance, manmade disasters and a prolonged conflict.