Aisha Ali is a 25-year old whose heart beats for leadership and philanthropy. She is a certified financial literacy trainer with Bank of Uganda and team leader of IProfile Foundation, a social enterprise. As a Somali refugee living in Uganda, Aliidentifies with all displaced people and is committed to improving their quality of life.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I am a very friendly person although I am keen on the friendships I make. I am career-oriented and try to uphold professionalism and work ethic in everything I do. I am generous and empathetic; probably because of my background, I tend to understand people’s emotions well.
What things speak to your heart and motivate your actions?
Making a positive change in the world. I want to use the gifts I have been given to make a lasting impact on society rather than temporarily fixing a problem. I know that in order to make significant societal change, I must first of all empower myself by acquiring skills and knowledge that will enable me to come up with long-term solutions. Nothing makes me happier than lifting up someone who feels disadvantaged or overwhelmed by circumstances.
What is your professional and education background?
At some point, I wanted to become an engineer but after my Senior Six, I put education on hold because I had to gunner skills to run the organisation I had started; iprofile Foundation.
When I started the foundation, I thought it would be a little hobby that would satisfy my need to help while I continued with my studies. However, I soon realised it would not be possible because of the demand of the services we offer and the amount of work involved. For a moment this seemed more important than any degree because I was following my passion. However, the reality is one needs practical skills to supplement their God given talent so I enrolled for a course in accounting and finance and I hope to do another one in humanitarian work or diplomacy.
What has been your contribution in making the world a better place?
I am doing work with urban refugee children. The refuge problem is a global crisis that needs everyone’s contribution to be solved. While I might not be able to influence global politics that create this problem, I am helping improve the quality of life of the victims. I started a safe space for urban refugees, which is supported by the US Embassy, where we equip them with entrepreneurship and skills.
Uganda is home to one of highest populations of urban refugees who lack support when it comes to employment, access to loans which I believe deters their growth and contribution to the economy. Our initial target group was girls in the age bracket of 14 to 25 years old and we now welcome old women and men.
Looking at how the amount of energy, passion and zeal they put into everything teach them, proves they had thirst for knowledge that we have been able to provide.
Why are you invested in solving the refuge problem?
I am Somali by birth but I have grown and lived here, in Uganda. The closest I have been to my home country is Djibouti for a five-day training. So I know how it feels to be displaced and I understand the disenfranchisement people who have no country of their own feel.
I would like to applaud the government of Uganda for providing us a home and enabling some of us to blossom. I have had acces to quality education and I have been sheltered from the poverty and violence that my other countrymen face. But this does not mean I am blind to the harsh realities of refuge life.
What do you read and what impact has is had on your life?
I am a big fan of John C. Maxwell books especially the Fifteen Invaluable Laws of Growth. One of his laws is the law of expansion so each time I achieve something, I believe I need to learn more to do more. I think there is no limit to achievements.
What is the best advice you ever got?
My mentors taught me to always be respectful to people and to respect time. This pushed me to learn how to manage my time; I always make sure I complete tasks on time. Time management has helped me become more productive and make useful connections with people. People tend to trust you more if they know you are organized enough to do things on time.
What principles guide your life?
John C. Maxwell once said: “The leader’s Attitude is like a thermostat for the place she works. If her attitude is good, the atmosphere is pleasant, and the environment is easy to work in. But if her attitude is bad, the temperature is insufferable.” I therefore live my life on principles of authenticity, honesty, service and generosity.
In Primary Four, I was given the position of head monitor and I did not do what was required of me save for wearing the tag and drinking sodas on Fridays. When I grew up, I felt embarrassed that I squandered a great opportunity to serve my peers and reward the trust of those that appointed me. I have tried to right that wrong by starting iLeadership, a mentorship programme that empowers and skills school leaders to perform at their utmost.
How do you de-stress?
I love peace and quiet so when I want to destress I go to a spa, or treat myself to a delicious lunch in a beautiful and quiet place. I also love fashion and style so dressing up lifts my mood.
ABOUT HOPE HUB
Hope Hub is a space that ignites the entrepreneurial spirit of refugees while providing them with experiential learning through our different labs offering information communication technology (ICT), crafts training, tailoring, photography, heena and make-up skills. The programme also teaches techniques such as branding, access to finance and market that help grow small businesses.