By Maham Haq –
Somali families in Chandler are just a handful of the millions that have been displaced
from their homes in the global refugee crisis. One area program is working on providing them a
place to connect with each other and hard-working individuals in their community, and is
seeking the aid of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) in hopes of attaining funding to
reach that goal.
R.I.S.E. (Refugee Integration, Stability, and Education) was founded in the summer of
2013 by Dr. Lubna Ahmad in fulfillment of the mission of the American Muslim Women’s
Association (AMWA) to assist and empower local refugee populations. Ahmad recruited
Maryam Waris and Aman Aberra as tutors at the time of its conception along with about five
other individuals who were each assigned a student to work with on a bi-weekly basis.
Three of the tutors, Waris, Arhem Barkatullah and Farhan Khera, will be traveling to the
University of California, Berkeley, in April to present the commitment of R.I.S.E. to CGI U in
hopes of attaining funding. CGI U, founded by former President Bill Clinton, has awarded more
than $2 million to over 5,500 commitments since 2008.
“At the end of the summer, Aman and I took over the program, reformatting, redesigning,
and improving it as time went on,” said Waris, of Ahwatukee. Today, R.I.S.E. has a dedicated
group of 12 tutors and about 15 consistently attending students who range from kindergarten to
12th grade, all of whom are part of the Somali refugees residing in Chandler.
“This program is immensely important for these kids because not only do we work to
advance their education, but we also play an integral role in getting them to stably and steadily
integrate into the American society,” said Waris. “We have also created a much-needed social
environment for them to get to know other refugees in their area, make friends, and really form a
strong community with the people living in their complex. This program has the power to
achieve a lot more than just education advancement – and that is what I hope will be the fruit of
Waris hopes that not only will R.I.S.E. empower young refugees through education, but
also facilitate the development of lasting friendships, leadership skills, and ambitious goals that
will allow these kids to ultimately achieve social mobility.
“What we do at R.I.S.E. is really for the kids and seeing them learn, develop, and grow
week by week. [It] is undoubtedly the best part of being in this organization,” said Waris.
The students in the program have formed a bond with the tutors. Abdi Dimbil, 7, of
Chandler said, “I love coming here because it’s so fun. I also learn a lot. [R.I.S.E.] is my favorite
part of the week.”
Dimbil’s older brother, Abdi Kamal, said the work he does at R.I.S.E. has really helped
him in school. He wants the program to grow and get funding to allow for a better, more
decorative classroom. “It would be nice to have a whiteboard that actually erases and more
colors on the walls,” said Kamal, 12. In his free time, Kamal likes to play video games and
The tutors of R.I.S.E. are hoping to extend their program to provide more resources for
their students. In the meantime, R.I.S.E. will continue to tutor as much of the Somali refugee
population in Chandler as they can accommodate.
R.I.S.E., operating under the local nonprofit AMWA, is aimed at empowering young
refugees in Arizona through tutoring and community involvement to cultivate their professional,
academic and social development in hopes of creating a stable environment for the displaced
individuals and families.
Editor’s note: The writer of this piece is a tutor with R.I.S.E.