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About Us

The Somali American United Council of Arizona is a non-profit organization.  It was founded in 2006 by Dr. Mohamed Ali Abukar in response to the growing need to connect multi-ethnic refugee communities in Arizona with each other and the rest of the American society.

The Somali American United Council of Arizona fills a critical need in Maricopa County helping newly arrived refugee families adjust to their new lives, location, language and culture. 

The Somali American United Council of Arizona exists to promote better understanding between the multi-ethnic refugee community and other American communities and to find solutions to the challenges refugees face throughout the resettlement process. 

By building a structure of best practices, the Somali American United Council of Arizona serves as a model for other non-profit organizations working with refugee communities and immigrant populations.  The Somali American United Council of Arizona collaborates with other ethnic community based organizations to find together solutions that address cultural barriers and emotional trauma that refugees face throughout the resettlement process. 

Mission

To guide the multi-ethnic community of refugees to better integrate into the mainstream American society while preserving their own culture.


Vision

To become a premier institution that provides high quality services to the Multi-ethnic Refugee Community in Arizona and prepare individuals to  achieve self-sufficiency and become law abiding citizens with great patriotism. 

SAUC Leadership

Top Management

Dr. Mohamed Ali Abukar

Founder/President/CEO

Dr. Abukar established the Somali-American United Council in 2006 to respond to the needs of unity and collaboration among multi-ethnic refugees in Arizona.  

In addition to being the President/CEO of our organization, he is also an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University and Utah State University. He has a Doctorate in Public Administration from the Pacific W. University in Hawaii and a two Masters Degrees in Journalism and Management from Italy. 


m.a​[email protected]


Nora Castaneda

Executive Assistant CEO

Nora started working in our organization 10 years ago supporting refugees in different capacities. Her passion is serving refugees and immigrants in our community.

After retiring from a career of 32 years in the education field, she officially joined our organization in 2019 as our Program Manager and now works as a Executive Assistant CEO. She coordinates collaboration with other institutions, ensures compliance, and prepares audits and grants.



[email protected]

Shannon Reber

Program Coordinator

Shannon started in our organization in 2017 as an intern from BYU Idaho. She coordinates all logistics of our programs, and she is the main point of contact for SalesForce, intake documentation, data, office procedures, and policies.

In her own words:

"Refugees need our help. They need our connections, knowledge, and our experience, but most of all they need our love."



[email protected]

Governing Board Affairs

Jack Salvatore

Governing Board Chair

Jane Bjornstad

Governing Board Vice-Chair

Jane started working with the SAUC in 2012 as the Community Outreach Specialist for the FBI. After retiring from the FBI in July of 2020, she joined our team. She enjoys bringing  educational opportunities for teens and adult refugees. 

In her own words: 

"I am so honored and happy to be a part of the team at SAUC!" 

[email protected]

Bella Nafisa Mohameed

Governing Board Secretary

Biography

Executive Team

Julianna Larsen

Senior Vice-President

Julianna started working a volunteer for our organization in 2017 and officially joined our team in 2019. She oversees our Educational Program, Women Empowerment Program, Volunteers Program, and Fundraising activities. 

 In her own words:

"I am constantly amazed at the dedication of the students at the SAUC. Their faith and trust in us, is inspiring!"

[email protected]

Adan Samantar

Youth Enrichment and Development Vice-President

Adan arrived in the United States as a refugee in 2011 and started working in our center immediately. His passion is working with the new American Community and especially enjoys working with the youth. He is in charge of the Youth Development and Enrichment Programs. Adan speaks Somali, English, and Swahili.

[email protected]


Ilyas Sheikh Mohamed

Case Manager Vice-President

Ilyas arrived in the United States in 2006 and started working at the SAUC 13 years ago as a volunteer and now is a very dedicated Senior Case Manager and Community Relations Vice-President. He is very dedicated in finding solutions to the challenges our refugees clients face. He speaks Somali, English, and Amharic.

Ilyas is also the President of the Nurulhuda Islamic Center of Arizona. Helping others is always my passion.


[email protected]

Sadiki Ikyebwe

Case Manager Vice-President

Yasmin Ahmed

Preschool Coordinator

Yamin has been in the United States since ____ she is a role model and a true ambassador for refugee women in our area. She is dedicated to the education of women and children and is also a great problem solver in the area of housing.. 


[email protected]

Omar Sharmani

Interpreter

Omar has been working for our organization since ____. He has a bachelor degree from Washington D.C University in Political Sciences. 

His main role at the SAUC is to close the communication gap between English, Arabic, and Somali speakers serving as an interpreter. 


[email protected]

Muhiyadin Hassan

Security

Muhiyadin supports our organization providing supervision and safety in our facilities. He is our eyes and ears to keep our facilities safe. When you arrive in our facilities, he will greet you with a smile, will take your temperature, and will ask you to sign-in.  He will then direct you to your class or to see a case manager when necessary. 


Abdallah Mohamood

Case Manager 

Abdallah is the younger member of our staff.  He is a full time student at Gateway Community College and works part time in our organization. He is a dedicated case manager that is persistent and does not rest until finding solutions for our clients. He is always positive and always optimistic about the future. 

[email protected]

 Cleaning Crew

Hawo Abdi

Cleaning

Hawo arrived in the United States as a refugee from Somalia in _____. She has been working  for our organization since 2018. She is also a very dedicated student of  English. She participates in our Women Empowerment Program and English classes in our center.   Hawo speaks Somali and Swahili and is currently learning English. 

Fadumo Osman

Cleaning

Fadumo came from Somalia ____ years ago. She has been a long time friend of our organization as a volunteer. She joined our team in October 2020 to support our organization to comply with the sanitation regulations from the CDC during the pandemic.  She works tirelessly to keep our facilities clean and sanitized. 

Volunteers

Mamie Coffey

ESL

Biography

Laura Richins

Preschool

Laura has been a great contributor to the success of our preschool program.  She donated the furniture, books, and supplies so our youngest clients can spend quality time learning English and American culture in our preschool room.

She has been working tirelessly with the SAUC since 2017.

Jane Wright

Early Literacy

Biography

Church Service Missionaries

Duties as Assigned

Our current service missionaries are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They are from the Phoenix area as well as from different parts of the country. They support our organization teaching, tutoring, cleaning, organizing, supporting, and encouraging refugees throughout the resettlement process. 

Testimonials

"The case managers and volunteers of this organization are helping achieve my goals here in America.  I attended English classes and Citizenship and Naturalization classes for two years and now I am an American citizen! I am very happy.  Now they are helping me prepare to take English classes in a community college. My goal is to become a teacher and I know that with their help, I will achieve this dream.   Thank you!

Faiza Ali

Local Client  from Somalia

"The Somali-American United Council workers have supported me and my family with job searching, job applications, housing issues, English classes and cultural adaptation trainings. I feel that I have a place to go for support when I am facing a challenge. I can always find somebody here that can give me guidance. 

Thank you! "

Aliyou Babari

Local Client from Central Africa 

My family has received a lot of support from the Somali-American United Council since we arrived here from Sudan.  I have participated in English classes and women empowerment classes as well.  My children have benefited from the Leaders for Life program, summer school tutoring, and the FBI Teen Academy. I am thankful for all their support!

Habiba Mahamoud

Local Client from Sudan

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