49. Mahad Abdirahman

17 Dec

49b  Mahad Abdirahman

 

‘Every day is an opportunity’ – Is the mantra that Mahad takes into his work and his life in general. He is driven to make the most of any opportunities that arise and he encourages young people to do the same, especially when opportunities can be few and far between.

Mahad grew up and lives in West Heidelberg with his family.  Originally from Somalia, they arrived in Australia at the end of 1995 as refugees. Now a Community Development Worker with SACOV (Somali Australia Council of Victoria), Mahad works alongside Banyule Youth Services and Project 3081 at the Banyule Council and makes the most of every opportunity to give back to his community.

‘I am working on a few projects, some of which are underway’. One of the major projects is called ‘Living Safely Together’, which involves reaching out to East African/Australian young people and educating them about counter terrorism’. He talks to them about how to be safe, how to look out for friends who may be attracted to risk taking behaviour, internet safety and looking out for family members. ‘I want to send the right message and educate parents about what is going on in their children’s lives and how to monitor their children’s lives without being over protective or invading their space’.

He also runs an indoor soccer program, every Friday night for young men. This project first started from a two week trial during Ramadan. ‘This worked out really well so we thought we should carry this on and be a regular thing so that they can engage with other young people and get fit at the same time. These young people told me that they didn’t really do anything on a Friday night and they wanted something to fill their time. It has allowed me to spend time with them and build a rapport.’

He is also working on an Employment Forum which is primarily targeted at young people of East African heritage but inclusive to all who wish to attend.  ‘A lot of Somali males tend to finish schooling but do not always make that transition into employment or further training, and this has become a reoccurring issue in Somali communities. A lot of these young people want to gain employment so that they can start supporting themselves and their families, but it’s just not that easy’.

Mahad provides one on one support to young people who come into the Somali-Australia Council of Victoria office. Mahad assists these young people by providing resources and referring them to services to ensure that they receive the best outcome possible.

Mahad talks to me about his schooling at Bellfield Primary School in Ivanhoe. With only one other child from Somalia, he felt very much in the minority, which was a difficult experience for him. However, this experience forced him to come out of his shell and approach and befriend different people. He felt as if no one would accept him but he kept his focus on friendships with the really friendly kids.

‘At high school there were a lot more Somalian young people and it was a lot more diverse, there were more migrants from different backgrounds and I thought this was a really cool experience. I got know different people from different backgrounds  and we were all aiming for the same goal, which was trying to get through and finish school, while trying to do the best that we could’.

Mahad said that his parents always had a positive influence on him and that he was extremely grateful for everything they went through to get him where he is today. ‘Although at a younger age I didn’t have any other mentors or role models to look up to and to learn from and this made it hard for myself and other young Somali people growing up in my community’.

Mahad wants to be a positive role model for the young people in his community; he wants to be able to assist these young people by providing them with support and giving them opportunities. Engaging with the parents of these young people is also essential to achieve positive outcomes.

Mahad is especially proud of his role in engaging with Somali parents. He explains to them that by signing your child up to a sports club they’re contributing greatly towards their social and physical development. ‘Some parents may see this as a waste of time and that their child is simply just running around kicking a ball. But everything interlinks. If they have a good social life and are physically fit then it will have a positive impact on their life and studies. Also, some parents do not understand the benefits for tertiary education and the Somali community are usually more focused on employment rather than tertiary education. By engaging in further education these young people will be able to have the opportunity to gain employment in an area which they will enjoy and will have the opportunity to earn more money’.

‘I feel that my role in helping young people is important as there hasn’t really been somebody of my age in this position before assisting these young people.  A lot of the younger people struggle to talk to people a lot older than themselves and there is often a bit of a communication barrier’.  Mahad has found that because of his age, his engagements within his Soccer club and where he lives, more young people are able to feel comfortable with him; because they or their families know him.

Young Somali people face huge employment barriers and this has a long term effect on these young people. ‘This leads them to have a lot more time on their hands spending time out late at night, just hanging with friends and not engaging in employment. Some of these young people will be doing the wrong things with the wrong people and some of these young people will end up just wasting a lot of time. Sometimes the issue of unemployment can create family breakdown’. ‘Other barriers include racism and religion, a lot of these young people face issues when applying for jobs because of their last names, having that sense of identity as an Australian is important’.

Mahad aims to help to assist everyone that he can, but if he successfully helps one person, then that will mean that he has achieved his goal within this role. By helping these young people, they are then able to contribute back to their community so everyone benefits. These young people have so much potential Mahad says yet people don’t always want to invest the time to support these young people.

I asked Mahad if he could change anything in this world, what would it be. ‘I would change the way young people are viewed, they are looked at in a negative light. Every time you look at the media, young people are doing this and young people are doing that, young people are the future and young people are the way forward. They have so much potential and it just needs nurturing, so I feel that’s the one thing I would change if I could. And it will benefit the young people greatly, because it will give them a positive outlook on life, and the way other people view them. They will start becoming more positive and do the right things’.

‘I like to tell all young people that each individual is different and each individual’s life is different, so whatever circumstances life throws your way, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end, it just means that there’s another obstacle you have to get by to achieve your goals. Just never lose hope and always be positive in your thinking and the way you are with other people. Just keep striving for what you want the most, not what people tell you you should do. Do what makes you happy and what makes you move forward’.

‘I just want to continue to support young people, helping them in any way that I can. I just hope that I can keep doing that for as long as possible. I want to be a positive force in everyone’s life that I come into contact with’.

Words: Jordi Metcher

Images: Sean Porter

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