Lizzie Kane ‘22
A Somali refugee, track and field star, and nonprofit and B-corporation founder, Mohamed Malim has already had an eventful and fruitful life less than a year after graduating college. Davidson students got to hear about his experience as a refugee and entrepreneur on Monday, September 22nd; the event was co-sponsored by the Davidson Refugee Support group, the Muslim Student Association, and the Chaplain’s office. Davidson was one of the first colleges Malim stopped at to promote his business and spread awareness about the refugee crisis.
Malim’s parents fled the civil war in Somalia in the 1990s for neighboring Kenya, and he was born in Dadaab, the second-largest refugee camp in the world. His family lived there for three years and then, through a lottery system, was chosen to be transported to start a new life in a new continent. Malim’s family went to Texas—his dad worked as a janitor in a hotel, while his mom raised him and his younger brother at home. After a year, a Lutheran church sponsored his family’s move to Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population outside of Somalia.
Malim spent first through eighth grade at a Somali-charter school. His experience there was tough because he got judged for having light skin; other students thought he was Middle Eastern. For high school, he went to a prestigious private school that had five people of color when he started. Malim said it was a “culture shock” and “it was not a place I belonged.” However, his mom told him, “You have to go out there, be who you are, and make friends.”
After freshman year, he “integrated into society” by joining sports teams. He proceeded to go to University of St. Cloud in Minnesota for track and field. During his junior year of college, Donald Trump visited Minnesota on his campaign and shamed the Somali people; “He called us terrorists,” Malim said.
This sparked Malim’s idea for his nonprofit, Dream Refugee. “I wanted to shift the narrative about refugees,” Malim said. Dream Refugee chronicles the success stories of people like him.
During his final year of college, Malim started Epimonia—the name means perseverance in Greek. “Refugees persevere throughout their journeys,” Malim said. The company sells bracelets made out of life jackets refugees wore on their treks to Greece for $40, and half of the profits from the bracelets go to various refugee support organizations. The bracelets are also made by refugees themselves in the “Dream Factory” in the Netherlands, which is overseen by Malim’s uncle.
In the long run, Malim wants to turn Epimonia into a full fashion line with jackets, shirts, and more clothing products. Additionally, he wants to be able to open up a facility in Minnesota and supply more jobs to refugees.
Malim and his company have been featured on the UN Refugee Agency, Business Insider, Forbes, and multiple other media outlets. His target market is college students and millenials, and he plans to visit around 40 other universities throughout the year, including Columbia and MIT.
Campus Events Coordinator for the Davidson Refugee Support group Clara Hare-Grogg ’19 brought Malim to campus to raise awareness about refugees. “I think we wanted to see how refugees have raised themselves up, as well as ways that we can support them as they do that,” Hare-Grogg said.
Students enjoyed the presentation. “I think it is really inspiring that he created an organization that raises awareness for something that he is very passionate about,” Danya Rangachar ’21 said. “Also, it shows that he is using his past experiences and actually making it worthwhile and making a difference to a group that he can really relate to.”
Malim encouraged students to get involved by buying bracelets and volunteering at local refugee nonprofits. “Refugees are the future,” he said.