Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Young Somali immigrant is helping Edmonton youth build brighter futures.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Abdulrashid Ali poses with his mom, Halimo Warsame, at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers Tuesday, where Ali was honoured with a RISE Youth Achievement Award. KEVIN MAIMANN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers honoured Abdulrashid Ali with a RISE Youth Achievement Award Tuesday for his tireless volunteer work with local kids.

Ali learned English and started his education in Grade 4 at Balwin School after coming to Canada from a Kenya refugee camp in 2005 with his mother and three siblings.

Now a Grade 10 student at Queen Elizabeth High School, the modest 16-year-old goes to Balwin three days a week to work with kindergarten to Grade 3 students as an after school assistant.

He also volunteers with Balwin’s summer camp and the St. Francis of Assisi Green Shack program.

“I like making a difference in their lives and just seeing them happy,” Ali said.

“If we want to see a better change in the world, we should be that change, and make a difference.”

Ali’s father died in the Kenyan refugee camp where he was faced with a constant struggle to survive.

Mana Ali (no relation), the Mennonite centre’s coordinator for community and family services, said Somali immigrants often run into problems due to trauma suffered in their home country and a lack of support from the extended family they left in Africa.

“You also feel guilty, because you left loved ones behind that didn’t get the opportunity that you get,” said Mana, who came to Canada 20 years ago.

“You know they are not safe. You know they don’t have the opportunity you have here. You live with that constant guilt.”

Mennonite centre executive director Erick Ambtman said positive, passionate role models like Abdul are important for young immigrants who might have faced similar struggles.

“He’s a leader in the community. He’s building another generation of young kids into community leaders,” Ambtman said.

“With all the negativity you hear about a lot of refugees, and Somalis in particular, having strong role models is really, really important for that community.”

The ninth annual RISE (Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton) Awards were given out this week to five immigrants who are making positive contributions in their communities.

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