Blog Archives

St. Cloud man’s hope renewed after visit to Somalia

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400

For more than two decades, Ahmed Abdi has observed what seems like a race between major news organizations to tell a single narrative of his native Somalia: The story of death and destruction.

Abdi, who has lived in St. Cloud since 2003, returned this summer to the East African nation he escaped in 1991 after the brutal civil war that left his homeland in anarchy and chaos for more than 20 years.

The images Abdi saw during a two-month visit to various regions in Somalia weren’t those of terrorism, piracy or drought — stories that at times have blanketed America’s major newspapers and TV news segments.

Instead, he saw Somalia rising from the ashes of a prolonged civil war.

“There are new buildings erected everywhere in Somalia,” said Abdi, who returned to St. Cloud in August. “Some of the new buildings are worth $2 million.”

Abdi also met with hundreds of Somalis returning from Europe, Canada and the United States. Some came to visit; others to help rebuild their country, Abdi added.

Some of those he met included entrepreneurs from Minnesota, doctors from Europe as well as educators and developers from Canada and other parts of the world — all of them wanting to help rebuild Somalia, which suffered in the hands of warlords and extremist groups for many years.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

Follow EngageMinnesota on Twitter: @EngageMinnesota.
Follow EngageMinnesota on FaceBook

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

St. Cloud immigrants get global news in unusual ways

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400When Mohamed Jama Mohamud dashed through a busy parking lot on a recent afternoon at a small African business hub in north St. Cloud, some shoppers stopped him to ask, “When can you install my box?”

Towering over each person he interacted with, Mohamud gave a soft smile and carefully chose his words as he explained his busy schedule.

Then Mohamud, a bilingual communication support specialist at North Junior High, promised that he would call them over the weekend to install ethnic channels that connect the immigrant communities to their native countries.

For nearly a year and a half now, Mohamud has been involved in providing international television service, which installs foreign-language channels for the swelling St. Cloud immigrant population, many of them from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamud explained how the process works: “I install the channels on Roku or Android TV streaming boxes, but mostly Roku. When installations are done, I take the boxes to whoever needs the service. And then, I connect it on their TV.”

With customers in St. Cloud, Fargo and Willmar, Mohamud said he charges people about $250 per box, which has as many as 500 channels that carry entertainment programs, movies, sports and news.

“People don’t have to pay a fee every month or every year,” he said. “They just buy the box one time.”

Generally, immigrants maintain strong family ties with their homeland and are eager to learn about the day-to-day politics that affect their loved ones back home.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

With social media, moms aim to end racism in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400Natalie Ringsmuth and Kelly Meyer have an ambitious plan for St. Cloud: to create a united community, despite longstanding racial and religious tensions between black and white residents here.

The idea struck the pair following the Tech High School incident in March, when more than 100 students — many of them Somalis — walked out of their classes to protest alleged discrimination and mistreatment.

As tensions grew at Tech, the flood of messages on the St. Cloud Times comment section left Ringsmuth and Meyer bewildered.

“It wasn’t until I read the comments that I really understood that this was highlighting a larger problem in our community,” said Ringsmuth, a Waite Park mother of three.

“When you come to this country and you’re told to go back to where you came from,” she continued with tears clouding her eyes, “how would you feel?”

Like Ringsmuth, Meyer said she was astounded how people reacted to the Tech incident and the misconceptions many had about Somalis.

“I feel like if you’re not speaking up and doing something to better it, you’re part of the problem,” said Meyer, a St. Cloud mother of two. “I didn’t want to be part of the problem.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Muslim community opens 4th Islamic center in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400In 2013, the Islamic Center of St. Cloud proposed a plan to build a mosque in a residential area near Clearwater Road, only to withdraw its application after strong public resistance to the proposal.

Last Friday, however, Islamic Center of St. Cloud President Mohayadin Mohamed explained how the lost battle became a blessing in disguise: The Islamic center recently purchased a church in the city that embodies nearly everything the center sought in the failed plan — and at a lower price.

In April, the former Good News Assembly of God church at 712-17th Ave. S was converted into a mosque and classrooms for the growing Muslim population in the city. The building is the former Garfield Elementary School. The site is St. Cloud’s fourth mosque; others are located on Fifth Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South and Third Street North.

Randy Adams, former pastor of Good News Assembly of God, congratulated the leaders of the Islamic center for the purchase.

“They were easy to work with,” Adams said. “They were good people. We wish them the best.”

The 46,640-square-foot facility — which consists of 20 classrooms, seven offices, a cafeteria and a space that can hold up to 400 parishioners — cost the center $850,000.

“After the city rejected the plan to build a mosque, we were looking for another option,” Mohamed said. “But we found this place … a better place than the one rejected.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Kenyan refugee camp friendship rekindled in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400The recent stream of Somali immigrants and refugees who are making their mark in St. Cloud is partly the reason Hussein Mohamud and Feisal Ali decided to live in the city.

The childhood friends who grew up in the dusty and arid Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya also picked St. Cloud to be closer to their families here — and to Minneapolis, which has a vibrant Somali-American presence and serves as the capital city for Somalis in North America.

“It’s a small place,” Ali said of St. Cloud. “Anywhere you want to go in the city is just about 10 minutes away. People really like that.”

Mohamud added: “St. Cloud is really a nice city. It’s promising for young Somalis … many kids are graduating from colleges and high schools.”

Before their arrival in St. Cloud, Mohamud and Ali spent more than two decades in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world.

Both escaped the civil war in Somalia — which erupted in 1991 — and sought refuge in the camp, which has more than 400,000 people. They initially thought the war would end sooner and planned to return home in a matter of months.

That wasn’t the case, however.

The civil war in Somalia stretched into decades. For Ali and Mohamud, this meant living more than 20 years in dire conditions in the camp.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)