Ayan Abukar- Founder, Executive director and Former Refugee

Mohamed Malim

My name is Ayan Abukar. I am originally from Ethiopia. Due to civil unrest, I was forced to relocate to refugee camps in Kenya, Africa where I first served as an advocate supporting my fellow community members in the camp. In 1998, I was part of the first East African groups to immigrate to the United States and I continued my passion to help others with my work in Minnesota social service and business circles. I understands the needs of immigrant families and became aware of the gaps present in the current system.

I gained experience working with Minnesota resettlement programs, the Southeast Asian refugee community, and Hennepin County social services.In 2012, I took over leadership of Safa Childcare and Learning Center in Minnesota. This daycare served local East African mothers who were low-income, single and needed childcare.

Many of these mothers did not speak English and they would me for help in filling out applications to qualify for childcare, employment, food, medical and housing assistance. Some of the mothers needed my help to assist them in communicating with their bosses or creating resumes. I mobilized volunteers to help assist my clients. A multitude of issues arose over time which made it clear to me there was no central hub for the East African populace to gain help in navigating the system in the suburban areas.  I am also for the youth. I care about them alot.

They are the future. 

We can empower our youth by knowing their background and by educating them. To give them time, hear their stories, sign them up for sports, make events for them, there’s a lot of ways we can empower the youth if we give it time.

My definition of success is to have a vision. To have a vision, to know what you’re doing. My personal definition of success is to help others, and at the same time helping each other. That’s what’s most important to me, it’s my passion. Also to understand how the system of this country works and be educated, try to get a better job. 

There have been a lot. I came here as a sixteen year old. I finished my high school here, I went to college here, I found a good job, I work with the community of Hennepin County in the economic department, I’ve worked with the Southeast Asia refugee community to give back, to use my accomplishment to give back to the community. You know, I went through a lot, and I created a lot of different kinds of businesses. I helped some people to accomplish their own business goals through advocacy. 

I have a five-years goal right now. We have a number of international organizations right now, we accomplish a lot here in Minnesota, so we’re planning to continue our work worldwide to empower low-income people and women and underserved communities. Especially in Kenya, Ethiopia, and East Africa.

The biggest advice I would give especially to moms, because everything starts with the mom, is to give time to their kids, to educate them. I know there’s a lot of challenges when it comes to the moms, but because of the language and a lot of challenges, but just try your best to accomplish a lot especially for your kids. Kids are our biggest asset. Make sure your kids finish school, get a job and succeed. This is the land of opportunity, but we need to use it wisely.

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