Somali Population Grows, Adapts to Central Ohio

A 13-year-old civil war in Somalia in eastern Africa has forced nearly half of the country’s seven million population to flee. Somalian refugees are now counted in countries across the globe. Tens of thousands came to the United States, including an estimated 20-thousand or more to Columbus.

Many local Somalis closely monitor events in their homeland through word-of-mouth and through the internet. They gather daily at the Somali community association center in northeast Columbus.

Weekdays at noon, a small group of some of Columbus’ newest residents gathers in a ground floor room of the Somali community association of Ohio on Cleveland Avenue – catty corner from Northern Lights Shopping Center. They listen to Somali language news broadcast to hear the latest happenings in Mogadishu and other world capitals.

Association president, Omar Hassan, says the Somali community in Columbus grew quickly during the mid-to-late 90s as clan warfare laid waste to the eastern African country and forced more than half of the country’s seven million residents to flee the country. Nearly 25,000 re-settled in Columbus.

The noonday gatherings at the association center include a hot meal and time to socialize. Senior counselor, Abdurrahman Gelle Duale, says the familiar language cadences and familiar faces help group members cope with language barriers.

Abdurahman Gelle Duale says many younger Somalis re-settled in Columbus adapted easily to western culture. But, many older members of the community are confronting what he calls “a lot of difficults (sic).”

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