One of Fatima Mohamed's dreams has come true: to help African refugees become self-sufficient. What began as a "kitchen outreach" project in her own home, has now become a 501(c)(3) East African Community Outreach (EACO) program housed at WCAC for over a year.
Traveling from Kenya, Africa, Fatima joined her husband in the United States in 1994, where they have been raising three children, now 10, 12, and 14 years old. "All my life, I have felt I have to help refugees. I put myself in their situation."
Fatima left college without completing her Business Administration degree to work for the United Nations in Somalia. After two years, she worked for USAID in Mogadishu and Somalia. Currently, she helps people from Somalia, Iraq, Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
After her move to Worcester, Lutheran Social Services hired Fatima as a case worker for Somali and Burundi populations. Many of the people she has helped have lived in refugee camps, some for 20-30 years.
Early last year, Kaska Yawo and Fatima approached the WCAC administration about providing outreach services to Africans. Given the magnitude of African refugees in Worcester and the number who arrive at WCAC for services, it was readily agreed that the volunteer group could operate out of the agency. The EACO is staffed by 7 full- and part-time volunteers who speak many of the African languages. Fatima and her team assist over 10-14 families a day with translation, housing, school, landlord, transportation, court, and job issues. "They need to learn to speak English; they need to be able to speak for themselves to become self-sufficient."
"People are in need, and I believe we can help each other, no matter what. I always look for solutions, ask for advice," Fatima remarked. "I don't hesitate to help without getting paid...as long as I help them."
Someday, Fatima will go back to school to get her final courses in bookkeeping. "I would love to continue to complete my education. When my children are a bit older, I will get my degree in Business Administration." But, for now, Fatima works long hours connecting Africans with services they so desperately need. "I do enjoy this work," smiled Fatima.