After leading four years of fundraising, Ottawa police Const. Mahamoud Elmi leaves Sunday to open a new school in his native Somalia.
Elmi, a police officer at Ridgemont and St. Patrick’s High School, raised $55,000 with the support of students, parents and fellow police officers. Another $35,000 came from an Ottawa development agency.
The Somali Hope Academy is located in his parent’s hometown of Bur Salah, in northern Somalia.
It has eight classrooms, a library and running water. Classes will be free and taught in English for 300 elementary students.
Elmi said offering a place where education was free was important to him.
Years of war robs generation of education
“In Somalia, if you want to send your kids to school you have to pay for it, and that’s hard for most families,” said Elmi. “Twenty years of war; you have entire generations missed going to school. It’s not right to be left behind.”
Grade 12 student Sharif Ibrahim, who played basketball in fundraising tournaments, said it was important for him to help others who were less fortunate.
“Some people don’t have the privileges we have,” said Ibrahim. “You can’t take it for granted. We’re all humans, we’re one, we’re together and we have to help each other out.”
Fundraising events will continue to help pay the staff of one principal and five teachers, and purchase books for the school.
The official opening of the school is next Thursday, and Elmi says 100 children have already pre-registered.
Elmi said he hopes the school will serve as a symbol of hope for the people in the area.
“A place where they feel welcome to learn without being discriminated [against] because of their financial background or whether they’re male or female. Everyone deserves an education,” he said