Josiane Matar, SVR volunteer interview with
Habso Mohamud, Founder of Muina International
May 20, 2021
I interviewed Habso Mohamud, founder of Muina International, an initiative that helps African refugees pursue higher education in the United States named after her grandmother. Born in a Kenyan refugee camp, Habso was fortunate enough to emigrate to the United States, where she devoted much of her time and energy to advocate for children who share her background as a refugee.
In 2014, Habso returned to Africa to give back to her community. She invested her time in reaching out to refugees in camps and their families to promote awareness on the dangers of illegal migration as well as assist those willing to travel and learn in the US.
Habso told me that it was really hard at first to establish credibility and convince the parents to trust her and send their children abroad, especially girls. Besides having financial concerns, the parents were worried about sending their children to the US with no money and sometimes little knowledge of English. Habso made sure to reassure the parents and encourage children in camps to pursue their education by sharing her own personal experience with them and guiding them throughout the entire process. Habso mentioned that after sharing her story, she was able to create a personal connection with the parents and gain their trust. She even told me the story of a woman who decided to sell her land, so she’d be able to send her son to college in the US.
Through Muina International, Habso was able to assist more than 30 children in their educational journey in the US. She accompanied the students from the beginning by assisting them with the application process, the administrative tasks and the legal procedures. Even once they arrived in the US, Habso tried to help them establish a sense of belonging and integrate in the American society by connecting them to her network and providing them with financial assistance. When it comes to funding, Muina International doesn’t seek crowdfunding and donations; it rather relies on philanthropists and community members willing to sponsor and assist the students.
Habso believes that by providing the refugees with access to proper education; they are then able to give back to their communities and make a huge impact on the African community. In turn, they will be inspired by her efforts and help other students.
Habso says, “I decided that I want to fight for education….I want to see a world where all women feel liberated, they're able to earn their own income and they're able to support their families and community.”
Recommendations for US Universities
Habso urges universities to learn about other countries' curricula and be more flexible in the recruitment process especially for refugees who face difficulties in getting sponsorship and providing academic documentation. She also recommends having student ambassadors on campus willing to introduce refugee students to campus life and help them integrate in the US culture. As for the student refugees and advocates aiming to follow her path and help others, Habso said “You’re going to face a lot of setbacks, but you have to always remember why you have started in the first place and this is what really keeps you going; look back at your why….Be patient and always remember that you are here because you want to change other people’s lives, or you want to change your own life.”
Meet SVR Volunteer, Josiane Matar
Josiane Matar, SVR Volunteer, Working group 1
Josiane Matar is a Lebanese- Cypriot recent graduate from Sciences Po - Paris. She has pursued her Master’s degree in International Public Management with emphasis on diplomacy and human rights. Josiane has a huge fascination with migration and refugee studies. She wrote her master’s thesis on the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and published several articles on the matter. She has also volunteered and conducted field research in several refugee camps across Lebanon. After graduating from Sciences Po, Josiane worked as a consultant for the research division at the UN International Organization for Migration assisting in the drafting of the upcoming World Migration Report