Bringing communities together
2008-12-11 14:59:17 -

In the latest instalment of Metro Éireann’s Meet The Boss, Christina Finn speaks to Suleiman Abdulahi, co-founder of Hapa and the Dublin Cross Cultural Club

Everyone has said at least once in their life that they want to make a difference in the world, but it is a rarity for someone to actually get out there and do it, which is exactly what Suleiman Abdulahi is attempting to do.
Somali-born Abdulahi left his home country over 18 years ago, and has been living in Ireland for over two years. On arrival he couldn’t help but notice the lack of integration among communities in Ireland, and decided that it was time to do something about it. As the co-founder of Horn of Africa People’s Aid (Hapa) and the Dublin Cross Cultural Club, Abdulahi is making a difference, but says a lot more has to be done.
Coming from a country that offers little support to its people has also influenced Abdulahi in wanting to make a change in the world. “There is no institution in my country that is going to support anyone,” he says. “I decided myself that I was going to take some responsibility. My personal and moral feeling was that I wanted to help my community.
“Hapa deals with three different areas: employment, education and health. We try to help people looking for work over here; we also try and help people get into college and training courses. We try and link people with organisations and colleges because there is really very little information given to people about what they are entitled to, and even when there is it can be confusing.”
He adds: “I think it is very difficult for the people we are trying to support especially in this economy. The culture and the environment are very different. There are people that have been here for five years and they haven’t had a job for that whole time, meaning they have not been integrated into society, they have been left on the outskirts of it.” Abdulahi says that the youth are the ones who will really make a change in terms of integration.
Many of the people Abdulahi supports through his projects are families with parents who cannot speak English, making integration extremely difficult for them. This is one of the reasons why he set up a homework club with DCU for children from such families.
“We started in October and it runs for two days a week offering homework support, and some children learn English also,” he says. “So far we have 20 students, and we have volunteers from DCU and other institutions who give three hours a week. Many of the volunteers are studying things like international relations so it works both ways really as both sides are benefiting from the experience.” 
Going forward, Abdulahi plans to continue working hard on his projects to achieve his goals. “I have many ideas, and I try and tell them to whoever will listen. I have just returned from France from a European conference on poverty – any way I can highlight issues like that is important to me. 
“The issue of integration in Ireland is an important issue to tackle. My aim is to give immigrants new skills and new ideas about what they can achieve. The more understandable society is to them the more integrated they can become in that society.”
At the same time, there is only so much that Abdulahi can do on his own. He hopes that the policy makers and politicians of this country stop focusing on the problems and start looking for solutions.

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