My Somali American Experience in Minnesota

By Abdi Sabrie, Engage Minnesota

abdisabrieI was born in Somalia, and have lived in the U.S. for over thirty years and in Mankato for seven years with my wife and seven children.

I came to America in 1982 and resided in Washington DC and immediately joined Somali opposition groups to the then Somali dictator, later helped found the Organization for Somali Affairs (OSA), which helped new Somalis with immigration and integration issues, in this role, I have worked with many agencies that were serving immigrants such Catholic Charities, ACLU and many private Law Firms.

In 1992, I volunteered to work for the United States Department of Defense, to serve with US Armed forces in Somalia (Operation Restore Hope & Continue Hope), as a Linguist/Consultant, to help alleviate hunger and bring peace to Somalia. I served there under extreme combat conditions like the Black Hawk Down until the end of operations in 1994, in this capacity I have conducted cultural classes for all officers to be sensitive and efficient in their leadership roles, advised the operation command center before any major operations, and attended daily commanders meeting.

In 1995, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where I became a technical Representative for Canon products in down town Atlanta, I was always involved there in serving immigrants adapt to the American Way of life.

In 2009, I moved to Mankato, MN with my wife Lul Omar and our six children( now seven), after we learned from doctors that our two youngest daughters will not be able to continue living in Atlanta, because of respiratory problems with the polluted air in Atlanta. We first moved to Eagle Lake, MN where my daughter became the first Somali student at Eagle Lake Elementary school.

I later helped found the African Family and Education Center (AFEC), a nonprofit that mainly helps Somali and Sudanese refugees in Greater Mankato with integration issues through education and became the executive director, this position is a volunteer unpaid position which I still hold currently.

AFEC organizes and coordinates Science Camps and after school programs for refugee students, provides support services to Adult Basic Education, employment and housing assistance to refugee families and many other programs.

I am also co-cofounder and Board member of Mankato Islamic Center, a community and spiritual center that fulfills many of the needs of the Immigrant Families in Mankato, as well as accommodate the larger community as a resource about Islam and Muslims.

I am among 12 people who won the 2011 Jefferson Award for Public Service in Greater Mankato Area and became the only one out of the 12, who proceeded to win the National Jefferson Award for Public Service, and I received the Award in Washington DC, during Ceremonies that took place from June 18-20, 2012. To win this award, you must have served the public in completely volunteer unpaid capacity. I am also a Blandin Leadership Alum (2009).

I went back to school at MSU, Mankato to complete a degree International Relations and Political Science. I also worked with Dean Henry Morris at MSU to connect Institutional Diversity to the local Mankato immigrant Community. I have run for school board position in District 77 for the last two election cycles and I am on the Ballot this Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

My biggest passion in life is to make sure that my seven children attain the American Dream, through a successful educational experience, with a full understanding of their faith, become model American citizens, and to help all children in my community to achieve equal educational opportunities.

My oldest daughter Amran is a third year college student at MSU Mankato, my second oldest daughter Wardah is a second year college student at South Central College in North Mankato, my third oldest  Gabeire (son) is a freshman at Bethany Lutheran College also in Mankato. Another three children (Daughters Sumia, Samira and Sarah) are in K-12 public schools, and my youngest Zaid (son) is two years old.

Because of my experience of living elsewhere in the United States for a long time, I am convinced that Minnesota is the best place to raise a family, is family friendly, and immigrant families can find the best acceptance anywhere in the United Sates to succeed in life and the hereafter.

Abdi Sabrie is the co-founder and director of the African Family and Education Center (AFEC), a nonprofit that serves African Immigrants in Greater Mankato,  He also co-founded and served on the board of the Mankato Islamic Center, and is the Commissioner for the Region Nine Development Commission on behalf of minorities, a member of the Mankato Public Safety Advisory Board, Back-pack Program Advisory Committee, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) Board, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Advisory Board, and Blue Earth County Child Protection Advisory Board. He received a 2012 National Jefferson Award recipient “A Nobel Prize for Public Service.”  His goal and biggest passion now is equal educational opportunity for all children. 

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