The United Nations refugee agency has named a former child refugee from Somalia winner of this year’s Nansen Refugee Award.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognized Abdullahi Mire for providing 100,000 books to Somali refugees in camps in Kenya. Mire is now 36 years old.
"Last year, 2022, Angela Merkel, the former Federal Chancellor of Germany, won the award and today a young refugee from Dadaab. The sky is not the limit," Mire told VOA Somalia.
Filippo Grandi is the president of the UNHCR. He said Mire is living proof that “transformative ideas” can come out of displaced communities.
"He has shown great resourcefulness and tenacity in strengthening the quality of refugee education," Grandi said in a statement.
Mire was born in southern Somalia in 1987. In 1991, his family fled the country because of Somalia’s civil war.
"I fled from Qoryooley in the Lower Shabelle region in 1991 with my mother and grew up and lived in the Dadaab refugee camps for 23 years," Mire told VOA.
The Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya today has a population of more than 240,000 refugees, most from Somalia. Over half of the camp’s population are children.
Mire finished elementary and secondary schooling while living in the camp. He went on to earn a college degree in public relations and journalism from Kenya’s Kenyatta University. He said his mother gave him help and support to become, in his words, “a voice for my vulnerable population.”
Mire got a job with the United Nations International Organization for Migration in Somalia. He worked in the capital Mogadishu and the southern cities of Baidoa and Kismayo.
He said his childhood in Dadaab and professional experience taught him the importance of his education. So, he decided to dedicate his professional life to helping his fellow refugees.
In early 2018, he started an organization called Refugee Youth Education Hub. The organization centers on refugee education and youth development.
After shortly living in Norway, he returned to Dadaab to help.
"I had a yearning to serve my community that drew me back to the camp," he said.
A refugee woman who was studying medicine in Dadaab inspired him to collect books for refugee camps, Mire said.
"She told me about 20 girls normally shared one biology book. That inspired me to use social media for a book collection and donation campaign till we reached 100,000 books.”
Mire is not the only Somali who has won the Nansen Refugee Award. In 2012, the UNHCR presented Hawa Aden Mohamed with the award for her work to help Somali refugee and displaced females.
The award is named for the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and humanitarian, Fridtjof Nansen.
“The win is not for me alone,” Mire said in a statement. “It is for all the volunteers I work with… It is for the children in the schools.”
I'm Dan Novak.
Mohamed Olad Hassan wrote this story for Voice of America. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
transformative — adj. causing or able to cause a change
resourceful — adj. able to deal well with new or difficult situations and to find solutions to problems
tenacious — adj. very determined to do something
vulnerable — adj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
dedicate — v. to use time, money, energy, attention, etc. for something
yearn — v. to feel a strong desire or wish for something
inspire — v. to make want to do something