Kia ora, welcome to Volunteering Northland

clock icon3 December 2023

Volunteer Spotlight: Nimo - Empowering Refugee Women and Girls

Inspirational volunteer and newly appointed Volunteering Northland Board Secretary Nimo Adam Ahmed is fully embracing life in her new home country.

Nimo volunteer

Story by Janine Duncan

Inspirational volunteer and newly appointed Volunteering Northland Board Secretary Nimo Adam Ahmed is fully embracing life in her new home country.

Born and educated in Somalia where she gained a Bachelor of Public Health, Nimo then moved to Jakarta in Indonesia on her own, where she lived as a refugee for eight years.

Being a highly resourceful person with a love of learning, she taught herself English and became fluent in the Bahasa Indonesian language. By volunteering at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and other NGO’s as a translator and interpreter, she learned of the daily struggles and plight refugees were confronted with; thus prompting her strong passion for and interest in humanitarian activism and advocacy. In Indonesia, refugees literally live in transit until another country is willing to sponsor them, have no rights, are unable to study, work in paid employment or even open a bank account. Therefore, they must support one another in order to survive and prosper.

A strong believer in the power of education, Nimo also yearned to empower the many illiterate refugee women and girls by teaching them English; thus building their self-reliance as opposed to relying on interpreters and translators.

Her volunteering experiences were the catalyst and inspiration for Sisterhood, a charitable organisation Nimo co-founded with three friends in 2018. This community organisation which is run by and for refugee women and girls is designed to unite women who are predominantly single with no form of family support in a safe and inclusive environment where they can connect, form friendships, uplift and support one another.

As charitable organisations in Indonesia are unable to access government funding, aid is provided solely through donations and fundraising. With a strong faith in her own abilities, Nimo used her resourcefulness to acquire skills in grant writing and funding proposals through support from international sources to build and maintain the organisation’s financial viability.

As Director, she led a team of 17 volunteers teaching classes in English language and computer literacy through both classroom and online forums, handcrafts, hairdressing and make-up. Physical and mental health programmes are also provided in addition to health clinics, access to basic necessities and a legal awareness and advocacy service. Since its inception, the organisation has assisted over 1, 000 women from a diverse range of countries.

Through this project, Nimo found her life purpose and felt valued. It was immensely rewarding seeing clients she had taught prosper and young girls focusing on their dreams and goals. She says living in Indonesia for eight years has ‘made me the person I am today.”

Unable to pursue her own aspirations of further study in Indonesia, she was fortunate to be selected as a candidate under Multicultural Whangarei’s refugee sponsorship scheme.

Her connections with Multicultural Whangarei led her to Volunteering Northland where she has secured part time paid employment as Board Secretary and Grant Writer. A passionate volunteer, she was very enthusiastic to join the team as she believes “volunteering is key to finding your direction, ideal career and who you are as a person.” She feels very much at home within this environment and considers ”holding “this position an honour and fulfilling an important role being part of a team connecting people and organisations.”

Despite now living in New Zealand, humanitarian activism and advocacy is still very close to her heart. She still retains her position of Director at Sisterhood and regularly contributes stories highlighting refuge issues to; a magazine she co-founded combining fiction, poetry, articles, essays and art.

For now, she is focusing on her own dreams and goals, finding her niche in life, networking and building personal and professional skills that may be useful in future employment. Currently studying for her IELTS English Language Exams in order to pursue tertiary study; she would potentially like to work as a community or social worker.

Having lived in Whangarei for less than two months, Nimo is thoroughly enjoying learning about New Zealand life and culture, forming new friendships and appreciating the many freedoms New Zealanders take for granted. Having found her new home, she endeavours to make the most of all the opportunities available to her now and in the future.