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Somali who fled war fights back through education

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Guleid Osman Mohamed

WHEN GULEID Osman Mohamed fled conflict-torn Somalia, he chose to take his books rather than his clothes.

Mohamed said he did this not only because they were his most prized possessions, but also because he knew education would be his saving grace.

“I loved my education. I believed it was a weapon,” Mohamed said. “I knew I could buy clothes anywhere, but if I lost my books I couldn’t get them back,” he explained.

Now, he is working to give that same gift of education to schoolchildren in Somalia through the charity Himila Relief and Development Association (HIRDA UK), an organisation he heads in Leicester.

The group, funded by UK charity Comic Relief’s Ground Initiative and the Department for International Development, works to increase the number of children who are able to go to school in the Gedo region of Somalia. The initiative also supports the work of small UK-based diaspora organisations involved in developmental work in Africa.


The Gedo region has only three public secondary schools and teachers are often poorly trained or not trained at all. In addition, few parents are able to afford the school fees.

Mohamed has helped to change this through working with UK organisations run by people of African heritage. By harnessing the experiences and skills of the Somali community living in Leicester’s St Matthew’s estate, Mohamed is able to make a huge difference in his homeland.

By campaigning and raising funds, HIRDA UK has funded three secondary schools in the Gedo region, where statistics show that less than 30 per cent of children are enrolled in education, particularly young girls or disabled children.

HIRDA UK has provided “171 places for young girls, 17 of whom are disabled,” said Comic Relief.

HIRDA UK is an offshoot of HIRDA, an international charity based in The Netherlands. It’s UK arm has helped train teachers, develop an improved curriculum, support community committees to manage schools, and encourage local leaders to raise awareness of the importance of education.

“As a result, there will be a new curriculum, dozens of newly trained teachers, and a significant uplift in girls and disabled students enrolling and doing well in school in Somalia,” said Comic Relief.


Mohamed said: “When people in Somalia realise I am diaspora, they appreciate it. They listen to me because I’m from the outside, with a different view,” he said. “Every time I go back to Somalia, it gives me more energy to help on the ground. I’m really motivated every time I return.”

HIRDA UK is also making a difference on Leicester’s St Matthew’s Estate where it is based. Many residents are unemployed. The charity also runs weekend homework classes and summer play schemes for young people. Mohamed said: “That’s why people appreciate our work, because of its mutual benefit both here and in Somalia.”

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