Sunday October 3, 2021
When Ahmed Omer started at Cosgrove High School in Hobart's northern suburbs, he knew very little English.The 16-year-old said he initially experienced some racist comments and "dirty looks" from other students.
"Students didn't really understand where I came from and what was my story," he said.
But three years later, he is school captain, helping to stamp out racism and passionate about sharing his story.
Ahmed says he starts each day early with prayers and his faith is something that inspires him to help others.
It has been a constant in his life, even as he fled conflict and lost both of his parents at a young age.
He was about eight years old when he left his home of Oromia in Ethiopia with his mother.
"My dad disappeared … my mum was like, 'We have to leave the country.'"
He said life in Oromia had been good until conflict between his ethnic group and others, as well as conflict between Ethiopia and other countries, took a toll.
"Kids would get shot and there was no safety at all," he said.
"I didn't even get the chance to say bye to my friends, we just had to leave the country immediately … it was just me and [Mum]."
Ahmed and his mother spent a couple of months in Sudan, then made a dangerous journey into Egypt.
"It took about seven days or eight … we didn't have enough food, there was not enough drinks," Ahmed said.
"We had to walk at times … there was about 24 of us on a Toyota Hilux and it was really speeding in the desert where if someone falls off, no-one could really stop for you, so it was a hard journey.
"It was either we survive or we don't."
"My mum passed away in 2015," Ahmed said.
"Me and my mum [were] really close. I couldn't even sleep alone; she used to be next to me every time.
"I always dream of her sitting next to me, me driving and all of that sort of stuff but I didn't have that opportunity and all I can do right now is pray for her.
"My mum went through and did everything for me to get the opportunity that I have right now, and whenever I do something good, I just look up and hope that she's looking at me and feeling proud of the son who she taught everything."
A woman sits next to a young man, smiling at him while he smiles at the camera