Thursday, June 24, 2004


Today’s post is a profile of Abdi Ali, a “local hero” who has achieved great things and has been able to turn his life around for the better since arriving Australia as a refugee.

Abdi, 40 something, was born in Northern Somalia and grew up happily in the capital Mogadishu till the inter-clan political rivalry tore the place apart, and the whole system descended into chaos. He fled to Kenya for security reasons.

Consequently, as luck would have it, he came to Australia in 1999 with his wife and children, after 7 years in a refugee camp in Kenya. What an incredible experience the passage to Australia must have been for the young family?

For Abdi, there are no words to describe what it meant to be given the opportunity to leave the refugee camp and to be “accepted in a good and peaceful country” like Australia. Nevertheless, he did not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead of him in the new country.

Reflecting on his life as a refugee in Australia, Abdi now says, “I knew life would be tough from day one”. And after a thoughtful pause, he adds: “experience has proved me right; but I have learnt a lot”. Alas, it’s not easy to raise a large family with minimal income; and living below the poverty line is a nightmare.

But, Abdi, our “local hero”, has no regrets. He has weathered the storm (and would not be daunted by any adversity). He is made of a sterner stuff! In fact, he has single-handedly raised a family, and brought up healthy, confident, and well-adjusted children on minimal income; a great achievement by any measure.

Although he is the first to admit that his new life in Australia is generally good, “things are becoming harder” as the children grow up (he has three kids in primary school and two in pre-school – a large family by Australian standards), Abdi appears to be quite confident about the future. Thus, his quest for a peaceful new life has been successful. “We are very happy here”, he says.

One thing is certain though, the happiness of Abdi’s family depends not on endless accumulation of material things, but on deeper appreciation of the moment (the quality time they spend together as a family).

A former Mogadishu school teacher, Abdi talks passionately about his “love of teaching”, although he has not been able to work in his “chosen profession” since he arrived Australia – mainly due to the lack of recognition of his qualifications in the new setting. He has, however, managed to find part-time jobs in other areas, as well as studying for an Advanced Diploma in Accounting. “I like financial accounting”, he says, and “would like to work as an accountant”.

Meanwhile, the family is a fundamental factor in Abdi’s life. He takes great pride in raising a happy and contented family, despite the challenges of transition. He is a good father and husband; a bread winner in his own right: “I don’t have anything else here but my family” he says, “ my children are my best gifts ever, they mean a lot to me”. He thinks the world of his beautiful wife whom he describes as his “right hand person” and a “tower of strength”.

He likes the city of Adelaide so much that he is now trying to bring other members of his family to South Australia through the family re-union program.

In deed, it is fair to say that Abdi is a great survivor and knows how to make ends meet, even in the most extreme circumstances. He has a positive frame of mind and seems to have deliberately trained himself to see happiness and contentment even in the most mundane areas of life.

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