KOIN Local 6
CANBY, Ore. -- Musse Olol helps Somalian refugees escape violence, government crackdowns and instability by coming to Oregon.
Reported by: Chad Carter Email: [email protected]
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Now, more than 30 years after Olol came to the U.S. himself, he is being praised by the FBI for helping keep Somali's refugees on a safe, productive path once in Portland.
At a conference table in Canby, Ore., Musse Olol reminisces about the place where he was born and raised: Mogadishu, Somalia. This African city is the third largest city in the Somalia Republic.
"It's a very different reality from the country that I came from," Olol said, "where in order to get higher positions you have to know somebody or connected to somebody, or have the blessing of the government."
Now more than 30 years later, he has the blessing of this government -- praised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his work to keep Somali refugees on a safe, productive path once in Portland.
The Somalia that these refugees are fleeing is one that has been dealing with war since the mid-1980s. This Monday alone, a blast in a vegetable market in Olol's home city killed at least 12 people and wounded at least 30 more. Violence like this has forced thousands of Somalians to find a safer life here.
For the past two decades, Olol has been helping that community -- especially the kids -- settle in.
"Most parents are trying to raise their children the way they were raised," he said. "What we're telling them [is] you have to meet in the middle -- trying to mix the two cultures -- so they can be successful."
But success can be tough. Many youth arrive fearing law enforcement after years of government crackdowns and instability. This mentality reportedly creates a growing barrier between communities.
For Olol and the newly formed Somali American Council of Oregon, that's what they're trying to change: "We're trying to bridge the gap between the Somali community and all kinds of federal agencies and the city of Portland or local agencies."
That's what caught the eye of the FBI.
Just this past month they presented Olol with the agency's community leadership award, flying him along with others to Washington, D.C. There he met face-to-face with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who acknowledged this Oregon man's efforts to better his community and country.
Humble in winning, Olol simply hopes it will show the youth they too can have a place at the American political table.
"We don't want the Somali community to feel like outsiders," he said. "We want them to realize American opportunities are there for everybody to grab."