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Mohamed Salah Abdi

Mohamed Salah Abdi

Educator and English Language Learner (ELL) Coordinator

Born: State of Jubaland, Somalia
Heritage: Somali

Young Publishers

Book: View Book PDF

I want to leave two things with you. First and foremost, I want you to get educated. But education without discipline is not going to help you. You have to have both. Respect yourself, respect your teachers, and treat other people in a respectful manner. 
Apply that with education and you will not go wrong.

Mohamed Salah Abdi

Educator and English Language Learner (ELL) Coordinator

My name is Mohammed Salah Abdi. I am 74 years old. I was born in Somalia. I was born into a large family of farmers. We had livestock and a banana plantation. We were well to-do.  

Living in our house like most of the Somali households, there were a lot of our relatives. 
Farming requires a lot of help, a lot of people working together, to produce not only their own food, but also food for market. Somalia exports a lot of goods. Banana is one of the main exports.

My father was an Italian soldier in Somalia when he met and married my mother. Where they lived, people were having a hard time crossing the river, so my parents built a boat, so people could cross from this side to that side of the river. 
 My parents were known as ‘the boat people’.

Both my parents put the highest value on education.  I have nine brothers and eleven sisters and all of them are educated. They are doctors, engineers, and educators. They are now living in different continents like Africa, Asia, Europe and here in the United States of America. My dad used to say, “If you learn, you become learners, educated, you will never go hungry. If you build wealth, you may lose it, but if you get educated, you will keep that forever!”   

In 1991 there was a civil war that broke out in Somalia. There were a lot of people that were fleeing. People were looting and killing each other. There was a lot of persecution. So that’s when I decided to move my family to a neighboring country called Kenya. I came to the United States, September 19, 1999. I started working here in this school as associate educator.  I’m still working in Sanford after 13 years.

Whether in Somalia or here in the United States of America, I have always been committed to helping younger children become educated, in order to improve their life and become the future leaders of our nation.  I helped all of my 14 children graduate from college. Eleven of them have Masters degrees already.

Both of my parents were firm believers of Islam. We all went to Koranic school, which is kind of Sunday school, where you learn the Bible, but instead of the Bible, the Koran.  We memorized the entire Koran, more than a thousand pages, at a young age.

The word Somalia is two words that became one. So means “you milk yourself”. Mal means camel! Camel is one of the beloved livestock of Somalia. If you visit a Somali family, they will give you a container that they use to milk their camel, and say, “Make yourself at home. Go milk the camel yourself.” The Somali culture is very hospitable. The same as Minnesota culture. I think this is what attracted the Somali people to the state of Minnesota.


Generosity, Hospitality

Honoring Mohamed Salah Abdi

Generosity, Hospitality
(Honoring Mohamed Salah Abdi)

Born in a family
Of farmers, nine brothers
Eleven sisters
Who cared for one another
I became a teacher
Of Italian language
Went to Italy
To extend my education
To get a college degree
Somal! Go help yourself
Generosity! Hospitality!

Started my own business
With two small factories
Producing cooking oil
Raised a big family
Fourteen kids of my own
With one mom, all of them
Then the Civil War broke out
We fled when it did
To Kenya
Somal! Go help yourself
Generosity! Hospitality!

Like going up to the moon
Can you imagine that
Not knowing where you’re headed
Not knowing where you’re at
With no time to say good-bye
To friends and family
Losing all you had before
It was not easy
To start over again
Somal! Go help yourself
Generosity! Hospitality!

In Koranic school
The Koran I memorized
Over one-thousand pages
In body, heart, and mind
Believer in Almighty God
To practice discipline
To learn as much as you can
be humble, to forgive
To be respectable
Somal! Go help yourself
Generosity! Hospitality!

If you learn, you are learners
Educated, you will never
Go hungry, education
Will sustain you forever
No one can take it from you
Unlike your possessions
You can lose it in a moment
But an education
Is the key to victory
Somal! Go help yourself
Generosity! Hospitality!

Music by LARRY LONG. Words by LARRY LONG with Eric Sparks’ Second and Sixth Hour 7th Grade Class of Sanford Middle School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

© Larry Long Publishing 2013 / BMI