From So­ma­lia to a dou­ble de­gree

Kapi-Mana News - - EDUCATION - By EMMA BEER

Ahmed Sofe is proof that any­thing is pos­si­ble.

Mr Sofe was born in So­ma­lia in 1985. His fa­ther was killed in the civil war when he was four.

Fol­low­ing that, his preg­nant mother moved Ahmed and his three younger broth­ers to Ethiopia.

‘‘We moved to Ethiopia be­cause there was no peace, there was a war go­ing on in So­ma­lia, so it was not safe for us to stay there,’’ he said.

‘‘ Life’s quite dif­fi­cult [ in So­ma­lia and Ethiopia]. Peo­ple have dif­fi­culty to meet ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties, let alone the stuff like work or ed­u­ca­tion – those are out of the equa­tion.

‘‘Peo­ple are strug­gling to get food, water and clean fa­cil­i­ties.’’

In 1999, the Sofes im­mi­grated to New Zealand, hop­ing for a bet­ter life, and for med­i­cal help for Mrs Sofe.

‘‘She has seven gun wounds on her leg. Peo­ple in the UNHCR [United Na­tions Refugee Agency] helped to find a place where she could get treat­ment and we can get a fu­ture.’’

New Zealand was the first coun­try to re­spond.

‘‘The thing that went through in my head was, ‘ Oh fan­tas­tic, I’ll find some sort of ed­u­ca­tion there.’ It was sort of a fan­tasy world. ‘It’s go­ing to be fan­tas­tic, life will be good, there will be lots of en­ter­tain­ment and I can ba­si­cally pur­sue any dreams I have. I won’t worry for food and health and ed­u­ca­tion or for safety.’’’

Mr Sofe said New Zealand had lived up to his ex­pec­ta­tions.

‘‘ I’m very grate­ful to the coun­try: they of­fered us a great op­por­tu­nity that we wouldn’t have got in Ethiopia.

‘‘And ev­ery day when I wake up, that’s what drives me.

‘‘Look­ing back where I’m from, there are peo­ple like me who did not have the op­por­tu­nity to come to a coun­try like here, so I should be work­ing hard, tak­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties that come.’’

Af­ter mov­ing to Welling­ton, Mr Sofe was en­rolled at Welling­ton High School. It was a dif­fi­cult first year, he said, be­cause he spoke lit­tle English.

‘‘I was like a deaf per­son sit­ting in class. I was just do­ing the for­mal­i­ties of be­ing there.’’

By the next year, his year 11, things turned around.

Af­ter high school, he went on to univer­sity at Massey, de­spite sug­ges­tions it would be too hard.

‘‘I had peo­ple say­ing, ‘ Univer­sity’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for you, so it’s not ideal that you should go’.

‘‘But be­cause I had that strong drive I said, ‘ Hey, you have an op­por­tu­nity that not ev­ery­one gets’.’’

As in high school, his first year was dif­fi­cult.

‘‘In terms of my aca­demic back­ground, I wasn’t quite com­fort­able, but I had that drive.

‘‘Once I came back for sec­ond year, life changed again. My first se­mes­ter I got four As, so that was fan­tas­tic.

‘‘ From there it sort of snow­balled, it rolled and I haven’t seen any­thing that’s stopped me yet.’’

Mr Sofe com­pleted his bach­e­lor of ac­coun­tancy in 2007 with an A av­er­age, and his bach­e­lor of busi­ness stud­ies, with hon­ours in ac­count­ing, in 2009. He is now a char­tered ac­coun­tant for Ernst & Young.

He said his mother was ex­cited by his suc­cesses.

‘‘ The thing that ex­cites her mainly is if I hadn’t set up this ex­am­ple it would’ve af­fected [my broth­ers].’’

One brother has be­come an ac­coun­tant in com­mer­cial law, an­other is a car­pen­ter, one is at univer­sity and the youngest is fin­ish­ing high school.

Mr Sofe is heav­ily in­volved in the So­ma­lian com­mu­nity in Welling­ton, and helped or­gan­ise the re­cent Cel­e­brate So­ma­lia and Save Lives.

The event, which in­cluded food, cul­ture, live mu­sic, dance, art and key­note speak­ers, was an ef­fort to reach out to less for­tu­nate So­ma­lis in New Zealand and in So­ma­lia. It has been a huge jump for a man who 12 years ago did not know what an ac­coun­tant was.

‘‘ Some­times I say it’s like com­ing from a dif­fer­ent world.

‘‘I’m pretty lucky, and I’m pretty grate­ful to New Zealand and what has been pro­vided to me.’’

High achiever: Ahmed Sofe has grabbed ev­ery op­por­tu­nity life has given him.

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