Abdullahi Ali | Founder + CEO of Gateway Community Services

When Abdullahi Ali was a child growing up in refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, his parents taught him the importance of charity work, and he remembers helping his neighbors collect water and firewood for cooking. “I believe the best way to show gratitude is to give back to those in need,” Ali says. “Even if it’s as little as a smile.” In 2007 he became the first person in his family to go to college when he enrolled at the University of Nairobi to study sociology. Two years later, Ali moved to Maine as a refugee. He finished his undergraduate career at the University of Southern Maine, and received his master of science degree in justice studies from Southern New Hampshire University. In 2014 he founded Gateway Community Services in Portland, an organization that provides counseling for children and adults, and youth empowerment services, with a focus on immigrants and refugees. Ali’s background allows him to relate to the needs of immigrants. He helps them find training to learn English, apply for jobs, secure housing, and integrate with the community. “I understand the struggles and challenges that immigrants face,” he says. “And because of this, I strive to create an environment where immigrants and other Mainers can feel safe and empowered.” Within the past five years, under Ali’s leadership, Gateway Community Services has served over 1,000 individuals and opened locations in Lewiston and Augusta. It now employs more than 100 people.

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