2009 Prize Winner
Fowzia Abdulle knows all about trauma. Shes been working for three years as an advocate and case manager with Healing Roots, the Bradley Angle Houses culturally specific response to domestic violence. The center, which opened in 2007, seeks to provide emergency shelter and affordable, long-term housing to African and African-American women in need.
Abdulles work puts her in the path of many women and children dealing with trauma. She is often the first person a survivor of domestic abuse sees on arrival at Healing Roots. And Abdulle has the added challenge of empowering women who were raised in cultures that discourage the slightest discussion of abuse.
Some women dont know how to talk about domestic violence, says Abdulle, 35. Its hard for them to open up. For African-Americans, its easy, they can talk about it. African women, they dont at all. Its a situation Abdulle, a Somalian refugee who came to America in 2002, understands personally. Her experience gives women in her care reason to trust her.
Coming from a war country, I have seen many people, especially women and children, who suffered either because of rape, hunger or being killed. I felt like this was my time to help them, by providing advocacy for those women and children who are in abusive relationships and be their voices when others cant hear them, she says. Abdulles fundamental task is to keep her clients safe. The emergency shelter on site can hold up to seven women; if its full, victims are offered hotel vouchers. Even if a bed is available, however, the cultural divide often makes it impossible for women to feel comfortable in the shelter.
Despite these challenges, Abdulle is determined to help each woman reach goals she couldnt imagine before coming in for help. At the same time shes been going to school to obtain a social-work degree. (She already has one in computer information systems.) And she is learning more Arabic. Abdulle already speaks Swahili, Somali and Englishwhich could all come in handy for her big plan. My personal goal is to provide social work served on an international level, she says, and help women and children who are in refugee camps and war zones, so I can empower them and give back to my community.