Awoken by the artillery shells raining down indiscriminately, running became the only option. We ran all night, through the day, and ran six more days. As I ran – the mind toiling with the ordeal – I was now an intimate witness of the strewn corpses by the wayside. By age seven, I had outrun the carnage of civil war – unscathed. Bereft of basic necessities, our arduous journey ended at the periphery of an informal IDP (internally displaced persons) camp. Our abandoned town, Burao, was now a ghost town. Houses were trimmed down to tiny bricks and separated walls with no roofs.
Life at this wretched camp – for the next decade – came to symbolize the plight of the displaced. We lived in a collection of tents and shelters, most of which were made from plastic sheets. Hunger, thirst, and curable diseases were all too common features of daily life. In an otherwise bleak landscape, solving the simple problem of survival remained an immutable fate. It is a poignant reminder of what it is like without the palliative measures of relief agencies. Indeed, I never imagined my presence in America.
In Seattle – at age fifteen – I attended my first educational class. Imbued with an insatiable desire for learning, I had my freshman orientation at the University of Arizona on my fifth-year anniversary in America. In college, a deep yearning for a sense of understanding of my world consumed me. Through Political Science and especially in my International Studies courses, I finally came to terms with my country’s tragic two-decade conflict. This provided me the impetus to take an interest in International Development, particularly Economic Development.
Upon graduation, an Internship with the Danish Refugee Council resulted in my return to the IDP camp where I had once lived. Ironically, I was now lending support to one of the few humanitarian agencies that had saved my life. Nonetheless, the decision to pursue a career in Global Supply Chain was a corollary to what I firmly knew partly led to the collapse of the Somali state: systemic corruption. The past four years as a supply chain practitioner, has taught me the impact of corruption resulting in real human consequences. Managing multi-complex global supplier accounts, my strategic risk-assessments were centered on mitigating adverse human rights impacts.
Throughout this circuitous journey, an implacable optimism endured that Somalia can overcome its protracted state of despair. Ultimately, it is this resolve which steered me towards a commitment to take part in Somalia’s recovery and reconstruction efforts. In Somalia, a lack of economic development in key areas including transparent public procurement systems have created a well-entrenched culture of corruption. Therefore, I aspire to fulfill a leading role in international agencies, developing and implementing evidence-based, innovative anti-corruption policies through institutional reforms.
The choice of a Master’s in Public Policy from the Evans School is an imperative chapter in my quest for a career in public service. I am particularly drawn to Professor Anderson’s research on microfinance initiatives in developing countries, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa. My recent volunteer research at a local bank – MicroDahab MFI – on an initiative on solar technology that makes electricity cheaper for farmers and local entrepreneurs is an example of the current economic development projects in Somalia. Furthermore, at the Evans School, the emphasis on analytical and technical content will enable me the necessary skill set in fundamentally altering policy frameworks.
My experiences have shown me the need for contemporary public policies that address the root cause of socio-economic problems in places like Somalia. I bring with me to the Evans School an understanding of humanity when it is particularly in peril. And in that perspective, a shared vision with the student body that it is the people that our forthcoming policies will impact that matter the most.
Embracing a Public Service career, I think about my own past of overcoming displacements and cultural assimilation. Yet, in every step of the way, people existed whose goal was to care for me. John Compton, an Evans School alumni, whose recommendation to volunteer on a STEM boarding school in the same town I had fled decade and half earlier, is a case in point. More than ever, Somalia is in critical need of the knowledge and competence of individual voices like mine to rebuild its society and its institutions. The Masters in Public Policy, particularly in International Development, will be a significant asset in broadening and enriching my understanding of solving Somalia’s complex economic issues.