Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scenario #5: What does he want?

The other day I met a man from Somalia. He is a visionary of sorts. I suppose. He was referred to me as a person who wants to start a programme to help Somali refugees here, especially women. Since I'm currently looking into the needs of refugees, women and NGOs in this country, it seemed like a good connection for both of us.

It's rare but oh-so convenient when someone comes to me instead of me having to find their office, services centre or home. So when he offered to come by for a visit I readily agreed. He arrived on time and I was surprised to find a slight young-looking chap eager for a chat.

I asked a friend to get some juice to serve him, then we sat down and I asked him about his project.

He didn't answer, not exactly. Instead he told me a bit about how Somalis here have great needs, many if not most of them here are single mothers, and though he himself is not a refugee he is a part of the community and wants to help. He thinks probably they need some educational help, perhaps. He had a plastic folder with him containing a document, so I asked to look at that, thinking it might contain some information about his project. Instead, it was a summary of the goals and activities of the organisation that had connected us - a place I used to work at and so already know quite well.

So I decided to tell him a bit about who I was and what I was doing. I explained that we are looking for where the needs and opportunities are greatest and for potential partnerships, so I'd like to know about what he is doing with Somalis.

Again he didn't really explain a project. He did, however, ask me to help raise awareness about the plight of Somalis here, who have been someone forgotten, especially since the influx of refugees from that other country. He strongly recommended that I come meet some members of the Somali community for himself. Then he told me a bit more about his community, and explained that one of the biggest problems he faces is that Somalis here are too often not interested in developing their lives here - all their attention is on the West. So even though I should go meet them, I should be aware that they will be interested in little from me but help getting a visa out of here.

So then I decided to suggest a project. We've been talking a lot about microfinancing as a means of helping refugees to get some income since they are not actually allowed to work here. I explained some of my ideas to him and asked him what he thought.

His response was that it's a beautiful idea, absolutely lovely. He said this with a dreamy smile and bright eyes. But then he said that there are some problems. Somalis here are not very well-educated nor are they very interested in developing themselves - they are interested in very little other than getting out of here. He doesn't even know how many of them there are in this country because they come and leave so often. So until they are convinced to improve themselves here, there's not much point in giving them opportunities to do so.

So I asked him if he had any alternative suggestions, which he didn't. In the end I agreed to meet a leader of the Somali community and we could take it from there. But I suspect his community leader will have less of a clear vision than this young, well-educated man did. So what does he want?

1 comment:

tony said...

Hey Katie,

Hope all is well in your trek through Syria. Let me know how you're doing. I've beeen keeping track with your blog and it seems like a wonderful adventure. As for me same old same old. But i finally am making good progress on my dissertation, though it is a bit laborious. Hope you're well. Also I findally got Skype. Send me your ID so I can add you. Hope all is well my friend.

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