The Power of Giving Back
Mohamud Ahmed, a Scholar alum of the American University of Beirut (AUB), has always wanted to help others. “After high school graduation, l volunteered as a teacher in my local village high school. While walking to school each day, I saw two young men, half my age, working as shoe shiners. I learnt that they were both orphans and resided in an Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp. I offered to pay their school fees from the stipend my elder brother sent me monthly. They graduated a few years ago and are working as teachers. It gives me so much joy watching them realize their dreams.”
Mohamud, one of eight children raised by a single mother, completed his B.Sc. Nursing in 2015 from the University of Somalia. He was encouraged by a colleague to apply to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at AUB while working at the Internal Rescue Centre. In 2019, he graduated with a Master of Public Health, specializing in Health Management and Policy.
At AUB, Mohamud participated in the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Day of Service, where he and fellow Scholars visited a school for orphans to play with the children and teach them. Through this, he grew to appreciate the power of giving back, which led him to pursue a Mastercard-Foundation-funded research study investigating how Scholars were giving back to their communities.
For Mohamud, all the experience above contributed to the decision to start a school in Somalia after graduating from his postgraduate program. When he returned to Somalia in 2019, he noticed that many of the children in the community could not attend school and those who did walk for at least 45 minutes to get to school. He thus discussed with three of his friends to initiate the City Model School in 2020, to give back to their community, especially to those who could not afford school fees.
Access to quality education is a challenge in Somalia. According to UNESCO, only 42 percent of school-age children can afford basic primary school education. City Model School aims to improve access to education, with a focus on girls. The school is in Baidoa, Southwest Somalia, home to the most populated Internally Displaced People camp with over 40,000 IDPs. Eighty-five percent of the children in City Model School are girls, mostly orphans and internally displaced people learning for free. The school has seven classes, six teachers, and 200 enrolled students. The story that inspires Mohamud most is about a family of seven children who lost their dad three months ago. Their mum lives with a disability, and only one of the children was able to attend school. Five children are currently studying at City Model School.
Mohamud and his friends contribute funds to cover teacher salaries, rent, bills, and other contingencies. They have partnered with Care International, which runs the Leaving No Girl Behind campaign to educate all girls in Somalia and support the team with teachers’ salaries. While on a work trip to Nairobi, he printed masks and stationery to motivate students and improve their learning experience during the pandemic.
“We were focused on our idea and implementing it was the most important step. The reception from the local community was great; we met local authorities, media and committees who supported us and helped us recruit the first few students to the school,” recalls Mohamud. “The biggest challenges we still have are raising funds and getting school materials on board since quality education requires quality teachers and infrastructure. We are willing to partner with organizations and agencies to acquire land and build classrooms to accommodate more children in school,” he added.
Mohamud is currently working as a Health and Nutrition Program Manager at Gredo, a local humanitarian agency in Somalia. Gredo operates across 21 health facilities in three regions in Southwest Somalia and has partnered with Save the Children, UKAID, and USAID to provide healthcare services, including maternal services, immunizations, and treatment to malnourished children in IDP camps. His current project is funded by the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance to create sustainable opportunities for accessing more deliverable livelihoods in Somalia to support drought- and conflict-affected populations and those living in under siege hard-to-reach areas, only reached by plane. He believes his current project aligns with his passion to help children live a fulfilling life.
Mohamud hopes that the children will benefit from his giveback efforts. He advises fellow Scholars to be more creative in giving back. He believes that we are all changemakers and encourages young people to believe in their goals regardless of their context, community, environment, or financial constraints. He also urges people to live and work as a community since the best solutions to our problems come when everyone works together to achieve a common goal.