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Farhan’s story: “I am the change this country needs”

For Farhan, coming back to Somalia after university means he can give children the education from which he benefited
For Farhan, coming back to Somalia after university means he can give children the education from which he benefited

Growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is tough. The city has been ravaged by years of violent anarchy and only recently has some form of stability returned to its streets. Farhan, 21, was born at the height of the fighting between different warlords, when gunshots and explosions were regular occurrences. The conflict had already made his family incredibly poor, so when his father died they lost everything.

Farhan’s mother had to fend for seven children without an income. The children often went without meals and the older ones were forced to drop out of school.

A new life

Farhan remembers waking up feeling hungry and thirsty, wondering when he would have his next meal. Farhan and his brothers and sisters were at risk of exploitation in a country where children are recruited as child soldiers or become child labourers. Luckily Farhan found a new home with SOS Children’s Villages Mogadishu, where he was safe.

Many children in Mogadishu find themselves in desperate situations where parents are too poor to care for them. At a young age they start to fend for themselves and their families, working on farms and construction sites or begging on the streets. One million children aged five to 14 are estimated to be working in Somalia. A huge worry for these vulnerable children is forced recruitment by Islamist militias. Children are as used as soldiers, human shields or even suicide bombers.

Fortunately for Farhan, SOS Children’s Villages were able to provide him with a safety, security and love. He was also able to go to school. “For the first time in my life I was enrolled in school,” says Farhan. “I had a uniform, I wore shoes and had a school bag. This was the beginning of a new life for me.”

Constant reminders

There were constant reminders however of the dangers outside the Village. Many of the same dangers – including shootings and bombings – remain today. “We worry for the safety of our children whenever they leave the confines of the Village,” says Osman Shukri, manager of our family strengthening programme in Mogadishu.

“There are still sporadic attacks. Every so often there is an explosion or a shoot-out and people lose their lives.” Luckily, the Village is secure and both the medical centre and school are within the Village walls. The children have a large play area which they can access without having to leave the Village.

Farhan is grateful that he was able to experience a happy childhood. He excelled at school, winning a place at one of the best schools in Somalia. His outstanding performance there meant he also won a place at a school in Kenya for his A-levels. Going back to Somalia for university was a tough decision. “I almost quit school when I learned that I would not be staying in Kenya,” says Farhan. “All I knew of Somalia was anarchy and poor quality education.”

“I will bring change”

But, after enrolling in a course in public administration at Mogadishu University, Farhan realised that coming back to Somalia was the best thing he could have done. “I am now in my third year and looking forward to being a civil servant working in the ministry of education,” he says proudly. “I am the change Somalia needs. I will bring change to the education sector and provide the leadership this country is lacking.”

When he is not in class, Farhan tutors children in his neighbourhood. The literacy level in Somalia is just 19%. “I am not only supporting my family, but I am helping educate children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford school. The best way to secure this nation’s future is to educate impoverished children.”

We have been working in Somalia since 1985, giving the poorest and most vulnerable children the opportunity to grow up in a loving, secure environment. Help us give more children like Farhan the chance to thrive and build a better future for Somalia by sponsoring a child today.