Meet Khairoon Abbas: An Expedition Africa Team Member
Hi! My name is Khairoon Abbas and I’m 22 years old. I was born in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania, in East Africa. On August 29th, I will be leaving Ottawa with the expedition team for Expedition Africa. We will spend four and a half months visiting nine African countries. The purpose of this journey is to raise awareness concerning the continent of Africa, its opportunities, its challenges and its peoples.
In 2002, I left my country and family and moved to Ottawa, Canada, to attend college. Before moving to Canada, I had lived in different parts of the world as my mother pursued her education and profession. When I was five years old, I lived in Ottawa with my mother. While she did her Master’s degree in Journalism, I went to an elementary school for two years. After returning to Tanzania for a few years, my mother got an overseas job. We packed our things and off we went to Germany where we spent five years, until I was 16 years old. Before moving back to Tanzania, we lived in Ethiopia for a few months. Once I finished Grade 12 in Tanzania, I knew that I had to come back to Ottawa and follow my mother’s footsteps; I wanted to be a journalist just like her.
At the end of my fourth year in Ottawa, I can truly say that Ottawa has become my second home. I have grown to love Ottawa, its people and its calm ambience. Growing up and living in different parts of the world has been culturally enriching. These experiences allow me to learn about different cultures and people. It is these experiences that continue to shape me into the confident, cheerful, independent and diligent young woman that I am today.
Ever since I was young, I always wanted to work in the media. As an only child, raised by a single parent, my mother’s career path shaped my interest and future plans. I’ve always wanted to be in front of the camera reporting, writing and telling stories about Africa. That is why I spent the past four years in Ottawa studying the media. With my Bachelor of Arts Honours in Mass Communications and a Graduate Certificate in Scriptwriting, I feel very much prepared to enter the media world and tell stories that remain untold; stories about the beautiful continent of Africa, its challenges and successes, its peoples and cultures, its natural resources, its landmarks and so much more.
Khairoon’s Life in Ottawa
Living in Ottawa has not always been easy for me. My first few weeks in Ottawa were very difficult because I really missed my family and friends. I was very determined to excel academically because I wanted my family back in Tanzania to be proud of me. I loved the courses I was taking and I enjoyed making friends from all over the world. I got involved in campus activities, such as the celebration of African cultures and International Day celebrations and many others. I am lucky to be surrounded by caring people and supportive friends. Ottawa proved to me that it is very possible to have a family away from home. It is the friends I made and the people I met in Ottawa that have brightened my days in Canada’s capital. At the same time, living in Ottawa has also taught me a lot about myself. As the months passed, I noticed that everywhere I went and everything I did had to do with Africa in one way or another. I had no idea how much I loved talking about my continent and my people, until I moved to Ottawa. I want people to learn about Africa because to me, nothing compares to Africa.
When I first heard about Expedition Africa, I was very excited, thinking that this is Africa’s time to shine! With a sigh of relief, I told myself that finally, people will see a true representation of my continent of Africa, from our rich history to our many cultures. Since I moved to Canada, I can count the few times I saw a positive story about Africa in the media, especially on television. Most of the time, stories that are shown are mostly about how helpless African people are and how they are suffering from hunger, poverty and diseases. Every time I came across these issues, I thought to myself, “there is so much more to Africa.” Yes, Africa is faced with serious problems, from HIV/AIDS, poverty and hunger to civil wars but what about our positive stories? Why are the stories about our cultures, our influential leaders, our different tribes and languages and our beautiful landmarks not told?
A Time for Change
I can confidently say that living in Ottawa has not only taught me to be proud of my country and my continent, but it has also taught me to spread this pride and share my knowledge about what I know best; Africa. I am motivated to write about Africa because I want people to know the truth about my continent. What is shown in the media is not what Africa is about. People need a balanced and true representation of Africa. I want people to understand our problems and appreciate our strength, our struggles, our history and our cultures.
Africa is my continent; it is where my ancestors are from, it is where I am from. To be honest, nothing satisfies me more than talking about Africa, from its challenges to its successes. Being part of Expedition Africa is like a dream come true. I am helping to bring about change in the representation of Africa. Of course, Africa’s problems should not be forgotten because millions are dying of hunger, disease and poverty. But the time has come to look at both sides of Africa; the good and the bad. As we travel through these nine countries of Africa, we will experience some of the challenges facing Africa but at the same time, we will learn about Africa’s richness, the African people and African cultures. I believe that for anyone to understand what Africa is currently going through, one needs to understand its history, its societies and its cultures. Africa cannot be generalized anymore and thought of as the failure of the world. Expedition Africa will show Canada and the world that Africa is a survivor.
Alone, I cannot rid Africa of its problems; I cannot unchain Africa from its political, economical and social quagmires. But one thing I can do for sure: I can spread optimism about Africa wherever I go. I can tell our stories about our courageous ancestors and leaders, our rich history, our cultures and our people of Africa. And I will do exactly that. As I listen to Mahatma Ghandi’s words, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I realize that I am the change I want to see in Africa. I dedicate my life to telling African stories and portraying Africa in a true and balanced light.