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The midnight run

It was the middle of the night and Hassan Nur Hussein was anxious. At the tender age of 13, he was about to make an incredibly dangerous decision; to run away from his family and start a new life. 

From a small nomadic village in Somalia, Hussein had no parents and was living with his dad’s side of the family.

“I never went to school, I didn’t have the opportunity and wasn’t allowed to have an education,” Hussein told North Media.

“My dad passed away when I was seven or eight and my mom wasn’t there.”

As the only young male in the family, Hussein was tasked with looking after the livestock.

“Girls usually look after the animals, but if there isn’t a female in the family, a male is chosen. Since my parents weren’t around to say that I could go to school, I had to look after the animals,” he explained.

After six years of looking after goats, Hussein saw an opportunity.

“One night, I made the decision to leave,” he said.

“At midnight I stole two goats and sold them to buy a bus ticket and left the country.

“It was a tough decision because I had been looking after the animals for six years, but I knew I had to do it.

“I crossed the border into Kenya and went to a refugee camp and that was the first time I started to go to school.”

For Hussein, that risky 18-hour journey was a leap of faith he had to take.

Now, some seven years later, Hussein has reunited with his mum in Melbourne and is studying education at Victoria University.

His experiences driving him to help others.  

“I want to become a teacher one day and help people,” he said.

“I now have an opportunity and I can’t waste it. In the future I want to advocate for young people around the world because not everyone has access to education, and it is so important.

“I believe that education is the key to everything. If you’re educated, you’re more likely to have a better future.”

And Hussein is doing everything he can to gain experience.

“I started volunteering with The Huddle, and told them that I really liked working there, so if there were any opportunities in the future I would love to get involved,” he said.

It didn’t take long before Nur Hussein was actively involved. The Huddle’s Active Boys and Active Girls program in Wyndham needed someone to run programs and he was an obvious fit.

“Hasaan has been great for the program,” Active Boys and Active Girls program coordinator, Steph Webb said.

“I had been running it previously and struggled to build trust with some of the newly arrived migrants.

“Hasaan has built great trust and relationships with the participants.

“It’s good because seven of the young people in the program don’t speak a ton of English, and Hasaan speaks Swahili, Arabic, Somali, and English, so can talk to them and share his story.”

For Hussein, working with the program is about far more than just bulking up his resume.

“It’s really important to gain real life experience, and volunteering or working as a casual for The Huddle has been a great way to get that,” he said.

“The job is mostly about forming a connection with young people, and it’s great for them I think but it is also great for me and I get to meet a lot of young kids who are like me.”

The social connections the program provides, absolutely beneficial.

“When I first came to Australia in 2015, I didn’t speak English,” he said.

“And I would go to school every day and come home. I had no friends and no one to talk to. It was very stressful and very lonely.”

Hussein eventually became fluent in English and was chosen as school captain, graduating in 2018. His passion; helping young people so they don’t feel the same isolation he once did.

“The program is great because its inclusive and keeps young boys and girls active and gives them that social connection,” he said.

“I’ve also got to make a lot of friends from the program. There are a lot of people my age and it’s been great that the program acts as a kind of family because every Friday we get to see each other and play sport and spend time together.”