A former child refugee from Somalia has been named as this year's winner of the prestigious UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Abdullahi Mire, 36, was recognized for bringing 100,000 books to his compatriots languishing in sprawling camps in Kenya.
"Last year, 2022, Angela Merkel, the former Federal Chancellor of Germany, won the award and today a young refugee from Dadaab. The sky is not the limit," Mire told VOA Somalia.
Speaking ahead of the award announcement, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi honored Mire with a statement that called him "a living proof that transformative ideas can spring from within displaced communities."
"He has shown great resourcefulness and tenacity in strengthening the quality of refugee education," Grandi said.
From war to refugee camp to award
Mire was born in southern Somalia in 1987 and lived in Dadaab in the 1990s when his family fled from Qoryooley in the Lower Shabelle region due to Somalia's civil war.
"I fled from Qoryooley in the Lower Shabelle region in 1991 with my mother and grew up and lived in the Dadaab refugee camps for 23 years," Mire told VOA Somali Service.
The complex in northeastern Kenya today has a population of more than 240,000 registered refugees, most from Somalia.
Mire finished elementary and secondary schooling while residing in the camp, and later earned a degree in public relations and journalism.
"After a lot of hurdles and challenges with the help and the encouragement of my mother, I eventually went on to graduate with a diploma in journalism and public relations in 2013 from Kenya's Kenyatta University, to become a voice for my vulnerable population," Mire said.
With his degree, he then worked for the United Nations International Organization for Migration in Mogadishu and the southern Somali cities of Baidoa and Kismayo.
His childhood in Dadaab and subsequent professional experience made him realize the importance of his education, and he ultimately dedicated his professional life to helping his fellow refugees.
In early 2018, he founded an organization called Refugee Youth Education Hub. The organization employs two full-time staffers and six volunteers and focuses on refugee education and youth development.
Mire said he had briefly resettled in Norway for a couple of years but went back to Dadaab, where he was not a stranger, to help.
"I had a yearning to serve my community that drew me back to the camp," he said.
A young woman who was learning medicine in the camp inspired him to collect books for the refugees, he said.
"During one of my regular visits back to the camp, I was approached by a young stranger refugee girl, requesting me if I could send a medical book from Nairobi," Mire said. "She told me about 20 girls normally shared one biology book. That inspired me to use social media for a book collection and donation campaign till we reached 100,000 books.
Mire is not the only Somali who has won the Nansen Refugee Award, named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. The 2012 award was given to Hawa Aden Mohamed for her exceptional work for Somalia's refugee and displaced girls and women.