How would your friends describe you?

Busy, a socialite and late.

What do you enjoy about Bristol, the city that you live in?

I love the people. I love its diversity in the areas that I’m involved in. It is a diverse city, if that is represented or not is a different question but it is diverse. I am actually Somali and the biggest non-white community here is Somali.

Could you tell me about the barriers you faced growing up?

When I moved here when I was 5 years old and in primary school there was obviously the language but more importantly, it was the culture. In my early years here up until I was a teenager it was adapting to the culture. British people have their own unique culture and if you don’t fit into that it can result in things like bullying and things like that. I found it difficult because of that, I used to get in trouble a lot and fight and things of that nature. So the first difficulty for me was trying to get accepted into the culture. As I grew up, a little bit beyond that the next barrier I faced was education and the education system. I felt I wasn’t seen as someone who was able to prosper. I had lots of incidents where the teachers overlooked me. I wanted to have my own business but there was a lack of support.

What motivated you to overcome these barriers?

My biggest motivation is growing up in Somalia and going back there often to see what real poverty is. Any challenges I have faced here in comparison to what my people were facing back home felt like nothing in comparison. It puts things in perspective. As a result I was just growing up thinking ‘Okay what if the teacher doesn’t think I’m good enough, you’ve just got to deal with it’. You’ve just got to show them. That was my biggest motivator, and wanting to make a difference. Seeing people a lot worse off and me wanting to make a difference. A because I can do it because if those people can do it, I can do it and if they’re surviving I can survive and I owe it to them because I have more opportunities than they do so it would be foolish of me not to take advantage of the opportunities I have and through that try and improve the society both here in the UK but then ultimately back home in Africa.

How did you hear about Babbasa?

So ten years ago, when I was 16. I had a clothing brand that I started and I needed funding to release my first collection and I didn’t have funding at the time. I actually found out through a local youth club that I used to go to. And now that I think about it, actually a lot of those youth clubs don’t exist anymore so in some ways we’ve actually got worse haven’t we? But I was involved in a local youth club and that youth club connected me to Poku who is Babbasa and then Babbasa was able to get me double the amount I asked for. With a bid there is a language you need to be able to speak to get across your idea to a bidder or to a funder. Babbasa was able to take my idea and then translate it so that my passion and my goal came across. It was continued one on one support, I see it as mentorship. I feel I have been mentored by Poku for ten years in reality. And to me the mentoring isn’t just meeting once a month and like hey how’s your goals? Mentoring is actually watching somebody grow.

And that’s what Babbasa was able to offer me, to see the inner workings of how they do things. For example how Poku, specifically, who was my mentor, is still in my eyes. How he runs meetings, how he conducts his day, how he responds to things. That’s what real mentoring is to me, to learn from all of those skills and habits and professionalism and incorporate it into my own projects. I see Babbasa very much as a family, as a group of friends. It was never intentional to stay for ten years, that was never the plan. However, what happened was, they never treated me as a beneficiary alone. They treated me as a young person with potential which was something I wasn’t experiencing a lot outside of Babbasa. They supported me in that. They never said ‘these are the core programs we have’ and if you don’t fit into these programs, we’re not going to support you’. It was very much tailored support. And between the ages of 16 and 26, there are a lot of decisions you make in that time. Do I go to college, do I go to university, what kind of job should I get? There is a lot of decision making in that time and Babbasa has been crucial in those decisions which I believe has transformed my whole future.

Who would you say has been your motivation?

People back home. People in distress and poverty in general. They are my first motivation as I feel I have a privilege and there is a certain responsibility that comes with it. I am privileged to live in the UK and have free health care and free education and I feel I need to give back. Second to them would be my family. After that it would be the community that has given me so much. I am specifically talking about the UK. The UK has given me so much, you know, the discrimination comes with it but that’s part of the package. I can’t on one hand say no to this but accept the other bits. I feel I need to give back to the UK economy and I also need to change the discrimination.

How do you feel about life right now?

Very very excited. I feel very privileged and humble that I live a life I am very happy about. I’m happy primarily for one reason and that is the fact that I get to wake up everyday and I genuinely work on things that excite me or that improve me or that are doing good. But another reason why I find it exciting is because I see the potential. I am not at my potential and I never will be I don’t think. I don’t see a glass ceiling.

It was challenging me at the right times, it was inspiring me at the right times, it was opening doors for me at the right times and it was just being there for me at the right times.

If you could give a bit of advice to a young person what would it be?

It has nothing to do with anything external and it can be universal to wherever you are but it would be to believe in yourself 100%. Have meaningful connections, meaningful Impact and create meaningful relationships. Find your community.