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Coming to Australia at the age of 7 with her family as a refugee, Sumaya and her family were settled in the suburb of Brighton East, a predominantly Caucasian suburb. She started at a nearby primary school, the only English she knew having learnt from Sesame Street. Her experiences of being bullied and ostracized in school caused her to develop social anxiety and a diminished self-worth which she wouldn’t know about until into her mid to late 20s. She connects with students from schools all over the country on topics of bullying and overcoming it, body image issues and integrating as a refugee.
I am Somali by nationality but was born in Ajman, UAE. I spent the first 7 years of my life unsettled and moving from place to place with my family before calling Australia home.
As a teenager, I had a cleaning job at a local tennis club. I didn’t mind it too much since it was the same as doing my chores at home only I got paid for it. After high school, I focused on my studies and did some freelancing work as a graphic designer and 3D interior decorator.
My life as a refugee (integrating into a new community), bullying, body image, resilience, cultural identity issues, self-esteem, family and mental health.
One of my first speaking engagements was at an all-girls school. I spoke to 500 girls, grade 6 – 12 and as someone who suffered with social anxiety and self-worth issues; It was a huge accomplishment for me. Also, seeing the girls so interested in my story really made me feel like my story was worth telling.
I’m passionate about unlocking the potential of every single girl out there, helping them share their stories and building their resilience so that they can confront whatever life throws at them.
I have a youtube channel in which I share my stories and various lessons for adolescents so maybe you have seen me there? Also instagram and twitter.
I am currently working on a children’s book that is about the dangers of chemically straightening your hair, which is an issue a lot of women and girls of colour get sucked into. I’m also working on an animation of my story titled “The lucky refugee”.
“Sumaya had a powerful message to deliver about being different, suffering from bullying and ultimately surviving. Sumaya spoke eloquently and has a commanding presence. Our students uniformly praised her courage and message of hope. They could identify with what she had gone through and recognized how the kindness of one person can be a turning point in someone’s life.”
“Sumaya is a powerful storyteller transporting listeners on the journey with her. She makes you feel her challenges and struggles but most importantly her successes. She leaves people feeling inspired and ready to be the actors of change.”