“I was very much out of place,” she said. “I was black in Brighton and we were refugees and very poor. And then a pivotal moment of change happened when my daughter attended kindergarten. She came home and said ‘Mum – do they not want me because I’m black?’”
Mariam took this as a call to act. In her Somalian culture, community mattered. She began to engage with the community, cleaning houses and volunteering in community centres and an aged care facility.
She wanted to draw people, especially women, together in what she calls holistic integration.
“I thought ‘All women are resilient and have aspirations but how can we come together and learn from each other? How can we go back to our God-given talents and bring them to the community?’”
In 2012, Mariam launched RAW (Resilient Aspiring Women) – a not-for-profit organisation to create better social environments for all women. RAW is part community garden, part meeting place, with people gathering on Sunday afternoons in her backyard to share their stories.
RAW runs a program called Community, Culture and Cuisine. Mariam goes into peoples’ homes sharing her culture through stories and food. She began the program with a German friend and it has since expanded to include Chinese and Japanese women.
Mariam was recently awarded the Ambassador of Peace award from the Universal Peace Federation in recognition of her ongoing work as a tireless community worker promoting peace and harmony in Melbourne’s culturally diverse population.
Mariam will be one of many guest speakers at Queenscliff Uniting Church’s Sacred Edge festival in May. The festival of arts, music and spirituality will include a meditation space and Gala International Dinner. It is on 2, 3 & 4 May. For more information contact Heather on 5258-2854 or go to www.unitingqueenscliff.org.au