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Our scholarship winner vows to help those left behind in Somalian war

Derby Telegraph

A REFUGEE who fled the horrors of war-torn Somalia with his grandma as an eight-year-old is hoping a degree course may one day help him to bring peace and stability to his homeland.

Thanks to the Derby Telegraph and the University of Derby, Abdulkadir Omar, 28,who has lost countless family members in the 21-year Somali civil war, will next week be a step nearer to realising his ambition as he begins his studies.

He is one of two lucky readers who have been given the chance to study free on a three-year degree course worth up to £27,000, as winners of our Degrees of Success competition.

The other is Sabrina Shanker, 29, of Hartshorne, who will study for a joint honours degree in American studies and architectural design.

Interpreter and voluntary worker Abdulkadir, who will study for a joint honours degree in international relations and global development and third world development, had taken an access-to-higher-education course but could not afford to carry on to a full degree.

Explaining how his turbulent past had shaped his desire to study, Abdulkadir said: "As a child you are unable to reason the situation and you find yourself drawn to one side of a conflict or the other.

"But as a grown-up man, you start to question the killing in Somalia and other places and it has spurred me on to want to study something that will be of use to other people."

Abdulkadir was barely seven years old when civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991 but the things he saw and heard in the following 18 months have stayed with him ever since.

He said: "The impact of the war was instant for us living in Mogadishu, which is the worst city in the world.

"People I knew were dying every day. But there was no time to mourn because someone else would die and it would be endless.

"My mum had died when I was quite young and my father and grandma decided I would leave with her and seek refuge in Holland. She and I came to Britain in 2003."

When he arrived in the UK, Abdulkadir, who lives in Balaclava Road and has a wife, Nada, worked for two years loading and unloading lorries for logistics firms.

He then worked at an internet cafe for two years as an IT assistant before becoming a freelance interpreter and volunteering with Hamaari, a Derby voluntary organisation giving support to East Africans.

Abdulkadir said: "There are a large number of East African refugees in Derby who need help and advice with accessing services and employment.

"I still have many relatives in Somalia, including my sisters, and the war is still continuing almost 22 years later.

"I want to go back but what use could I be before I have acquired the knowledge I need to make a difference?"

Abdulkadir, who is fluent in Arabic, Somali and Dutch, is delighted to have been selected for the scholarship.

He said: "I can't believe I will be studying full-time but I am over the moon to have ben given this chance.

"At the moment I am a jack-of-all-trades and master of none but I hope to be able to change that ."

Between 2006 and 2008, 15 deserving students won Degrees of Success scholarships from the university and the Derby Telegraph.

With the increase in tuition fees this year up to as much as £9,000 nationally, the time was right for the scheme to run again.

Dozens of people applied and a shortlist of five was drawn up, with applicants invited to be interviewed by a panel comprising Derby Telegraph managing director Steve Hall, university vice-chancellor Professor John Coyne, chairman of the West Indian Community Association George Mighty and Girlguiding UK volunteer Liz Burnley.

Mr Hall said: "All of the entrants for the competition had good reasons for wanting to study.

"But for us, Abdulkadir and Sabrina stood out because of their determination. Abdulkadir was particularly inspirational because of his background and his desire to make real change to his and other people's worlds."


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