A young boy in rural Somalia: Our Founder’s Story
Mahamud Elmi was born in the town of Bursalah, Somalia. As a young boy, Mahamud’s family faced mounting economic challenges as well as a lack of opportunities. As a result, he moved from Bursalah to Mogadishu to stay with extended family in search of a better life. Shortly after, the Somali civil war broke out, causing Mahamud to flee to Kenya. Mahamud was 9 years old at the time, the same age as the schoolchildren that would later be the focus of his foundation. While in Kenya, within the refugee camp, there were no opportunities to pursue an education.
As a refugee, Mahamud’s primary priority had been survival. It was not until arriving in Canada that he felt he could finally exercise ambition, endeavouring to reach beyond mere subsistence. Mahamud, having been deprived of an education early on in life, was acutely aware of its value. This awareness proved to be fuel, as his determination would lead him to later obtain a formalized education.
After graduating from high school in Ottawa, Canada, and St. Lawrence College in Brockville, Canada, Mahamud would go on to become a respected member of the Ottawa Police Service. He became the first university graduate in his family after attending Carleton University, and later completed his Master’s in Public Ethics at Saint Paul/University in Ottawa. Mahamud’s singular pursuit of an education proved to be the catalyst propelling him toward his subsequent successes in life.
His education equipped him with the ability to transition from simply surviving to truly thriving. Despite these laudable personal achievements, his longing to make a difference in the country of his birth, a country that has continually suffered immeasurably over the past 30 years, has never diminished.
Having reaped the benefits of education himself, Mahamud is determined to share education with others in Somalia. In recalling his own childhood experiences and as a father of three, Mahamud is especially devoted to supporting and enriching the lives of young children in Somalia. The Somali Hope Foundation was born from this empathetic ideal, from the notion that where you are born should never hinder one’s development or stifle one’s ambition.
Journey back home
After 20 years of being away from his country of birth, Mahamud finally had the opportunity to travel back home to visit the family he was forced to leave behind. After having reconnected with family, the overwhelming issues affecting the community became all too clear. No issue seemed more pressing than the lack of affordable education for young children.
There are schools in the community, but affordability is a major obstacle for many families. For families that can afford it, many must often choose which child to send to school, leaving those not selected with grim prospects for the future. The journey back home quickly turned into a gut-wrenching experience, as the reality of this seemingly insurmountable obstacle began to truly set in.
Mahamud left Bursalah determined to give back to the children of Somalia in the form of education. With the help of key individuals, organizations, friends and family, Mahamud registered an organization. Thus, the Somali Hope Foundation was born.
Education has the power to transform people, communities and countries. However, education cannot be accessed equally around the world. The Somali Hope Foundation was born from the idea that education is the guiding light that can lead girls and boys through the labyrinth of challenges that life will confront them with, irrespective of geography.
The Somali Hope Foundation is dedicated to providing access to education to underprivileged children. Education empowers individuals to transform their lives and the societies in which they live. It also makes people aware of the rights and opportunities they may otherwise overlook. As such, the vision of the Somali Hope Foundation also follows the principles set out by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We envision a world in which all Somali children, girls and boys, can pursue a quality education that enables them to reach their full potential. Many of the parents in this community cannot afford to send their children to schools in neighbouring communities, leaving the children with little in the way of future prospects. An education allows them to contribute to their community and to the wider world. It is this vision that guides the mission and values of the Somali Hope Academy.
In 2008, the newly created Board made the decision to build a school for the children in Bursalah. With the support of the Ottawa community, fundraising efforts began in support of building our school. Through various fundraising events and the generous support of key people and organizations, a tract of land was purchased in Bursalah. In 2012 detailed plans regarding the construction of the school were developed, paving the way for the official opening of Somali Hope Academy that same year.
The Transformative Power of Education
The transformative power of education cannot be understated. This is why access to education is so critical to the development of healthy societies. The Somali Hope Foundation was created from the idea that education is a light in the darkness, illuminating a path for girls and boys to take steps toward a future they truly deserve.
The Somali Hope Academy is dedicated to providing access to education to some of the world’s most underprivileged children. Education empowers individuals to transform their lives and the societies in which they live. It also makes people aware of their potential, providing a means to materialize what they would otherwise deem impossible.
Today, 688 underprivileged children, including 305 girls and 383 boys, receive free education at the Academy. The Academy consists of a Board of Directors based in Ottawa and employs a headmaster as well as teachers to deliver various programs. The Academy also works in partnership with the local Ministry of Education, in an effort to develop and deliver a curriculum that exceeds the standards of comparable schools in the region.
The Academy further provides fresh water to locals and offers adult education programs to parents from the local village. The generous support of the Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa School Board has allowed us to provide laptops and other necessary equipment to assist in delivering innovative programs that will see a generation of children equipped with the tools they need to be competitive in an ever-changing global workforce.
We envision a world in which all Somali children can pursue a quality education that enables them to reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.
Identify and overcome barriers to education
Build schools and facilities for a successful learning environment
Reach out to poor and destitute children in Somalia and offer free education
Reduce the illiteracy rate in Somalia, and assist children in breaking the cycle of poverty
Deliver high quality 21st century educational models to achieve high standards
Help Children Develop a Passion for Learning
Support sustainability through a community led approach