BY: SIMONE SMITH
As Founder of Hear 2 Help, a Community Development Organization established in 2012, I have made daily efforts in not only improving my life but the life of others. It is interesting; I have found that the more that I do for others, the stronger I become as a person. My new-found strength comes in many ways: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and intellectually. The intellectual strength comes from working daily with students. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to develop authentic relationships with the families I work with; it is one bonus of working at Hear 2 Help. I am impacted daily with their stories, their struggles, and their achievements. It is hard sometimes because it takes an innerstanding of who I am, and an understanding of who I am working with. I have had many proud moments in the last five years, but I believe my proudest moment occurred last week.
I met Asmaa Omar and her mother Maleka Ibrahim through one of my other families. The Somalian community is tight knit, and my team and I have been welcomed despite our cultural differences. When I met Asmaa, she was starting grade 10. Maleka had opted to keep Asmaa out of public school because she was not satisfied with the education that her daughter was receiving. She had opted for private schools and homeschooling, and so far had been satisfied with her results. She had requested a meeting with me because she had heard my name circulating within the community. I instantly loved Maleka; she is a passionate woman, who wants the best for not only her children but all African children. Asmaa was attending a private school when I met her, and from the first day, I knew that she was different. She was very aware of being an African student in Canada, and she knew that life was always going to be a little different for her. Not only is she African, she is Muslim as well. In some of our first few conversations, I was astonished at her awareness of the unfairness that her people face. With Maleka being an educational activist, I soon learned that I was about to become a student as well. I humbly accepted my position, and from that day on, my life changed.
Every Saturday morning, at 11:00 am, I would arrive at Maleka’s home, and Asmaa and I would sit together and work diligently through her many assignments. I loved going there because Maleka would always have breakfast ready for me; I know; I love my belly, but I began to understand how respected teachers are in the African community. They are treated with a level of reverence that is hard to explain; all know is that my Saturday mornings were filled with happiness. After two years of working with Asmaa, I saw her develop as a student, and as a human. She began to make conscious decisions about her life and her friends; she began to prioritize her life and take accountability for her failures and her defeats.
Asmaa was home schooled and in private schooling until grade 11, and then she began to attend Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School. She found the transition difficult but pushed through. When she had to complete her volunteer hours, she came to me first and asked to complete them at Hear 2 Help. Asmaa and I worked well together, and she was able to actively utilize her creative ability. In January 2017, she informed me that she wanted to go to University to study psychology; she needed to maintain an 80% average in order to attain a scholarship which would be helpful to pay for her first year. On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, Asmaa Omar graduated with 80% in all her subjects and received an Ontario Scholar Award.
When I say that I am the proudest teacher ever, I hope you can understand why. She will do great things, and I am humbled that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.