From Somalia to Peace

abdi-qAt the age of three his vision quest began, taking him from Somalia to Peace.  Abdi-Q Ahmed, now a member of PeaceJam, AmeriCorps VISTA and a volunteer with youthrive, tells his story of triumph over adversity to the Search Institute’s Healthy Communities Healthy Youth (HCHY) Conference in Minneapolis, MN on November 8th, 2008.  It was Abdi-Q’s TEL.A.VISION that first grabbed everyone’s attention as he elaborated on the details of his Vision for Peace.  See his TEL.A.VISION below.

Abdi-Q’s story began as a 3-year old Somali living amidst a civil war in which he was shot in the neck while playing soccer, an occurrence not unfamiliar in his neighborhood.  He was taken to the nearest hospital, where he was refused treatment once it was learned that he was from a tribe different from that of the owners of the hospital.  In Somalia, it was more likely that an 8-year old would possess a gun on a given day versus having sufficient food to eat.  With the civil war raging all around him, he was also witness to the physical abuse his father subjected women to.

After her hard work and dedication to her children, Abdi-Q’s mother was able to get his nine brothers and eleven sisters out of the country by 1991.  Prior to coming to America, Abdi-Q spent many years in a refugee camp.  While safer than the streets of Somalia, he was lucky if he got one meal per day, with hardly a space to sleep.

On December 4, 2001, Abdi-Q went from the 120-degree Somalia to the 20-degree, below-zero Minnesota.  With so many changes, the most difficult shift in his thinking came from a teacher who taught him that “we are all the same.”  “She took my hand and put it together with hers, and she said, ‘We both have five fingers, we are all the same.’”  This allowed Abdi-Q to overcome what he’d been taught growing up, that people who were not Muslims were bad people.

After this, Abdi-Q met another great teacher, Sue Grosse-Maceman, who trained him in peer mediation and opened his eyes to world peace.  As one of the greatest impacts to his life, she brought him to a new level of joy, happiness, kindness and caring, second-only to his own mother.

It was this experience that led him to dedicate his life to doing peace work with young people.  He has helped bring community leaders, senators and young people together to commit to building peace within their communities.  PeaceJam has taught him to think of others, his community and the world, over himself.  His teacher taught him that “it doesn’t matter who you are, you can be brothers and sisters.  Just do what you can do to serve.”

Abdi-Q is currently doing outreach and training on peace building, service learning and youth leadership in schools, faith communities and non-profits.  He specifically works with issues of poverty, violence resolution, rights of women and children and the achievement gap.