Nimo Hersi

I was born in Mogadishu the largest city in Somalia and its capital. I was the youngest of 6 children. I was 3 when I caught polio. I remember being sick, but not much else. I was the only one in the family to get polio. There was no clinical diagnosis, nor treatment, to be had. People considered it to be a “misfortune,” and tried to solve it by religious readings, purgatives or herbal remedies.

In 1991, our family fled from the war in Somalia, and we were the first refugees to enter the Kenyan refugee camp. My mother died soon after our arrival there. My family built our own home from plastic and from wood which we sourced from the bush surrounding the camp. Eventually, thousands of people settled in the camp, which became a pandemic-place for cholera, dysentery, mosquito-borne malaria, pneumonia and polio.

I was about 5 years old when a polio clinic came to the camp, which confirmed that I had had polio. My father was particularly kind to me. Until the day he died, he tried “to make it better.” Eventually, he died a few years after my mother.

I was 13 or 14 when me and other siblings migrated to Australia via a refugee visa. We were first settled in Townsville, where, for the first time I saw a polio specialist. Later, we moved to Brisbane for further education.

My brother finished a sociology degree and became a researcher at Brisbane Uni. He has moved back to Africa and works for the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority in Development) based in East Africa.

I have always worked for non-profit organisations. In Brisbane, I worked for Lifeline and for the cerebral palsy league of Queensland. Since moving to Melbourne several years ago, I have worked part-time with a number of organizations. I now work in Women’s Health as a bi-lingual worker, to help women with financial literacy. And, I also work part-time as an interpreter.

In my spare time, I do a lot of advocacy for the Somali community in Australia, with a special interest in women and children. In addition to working part-time, I am studying Community Service, part-time. Whatever I do, establishing good working relationships is important to me.

I joined PPV’s 2020 committee because PPV is moving positively in many ways to advocate for people with polio. Because of past difficulties trying to explain to hospitals what a polio survivor needs going home with a new baby, I was recently offered a project partnership with the Australian Catholic University, Polio Services Victoria, and Polio Australia. We hope to provide an Information Package to support future parents with polio. When it is finished, I hope it will be beneficial to myself and other members of the polio community.

I love spending time with my friends and family. Long drives are my thing! Once a year, I take my family for a trip round the scenic drive of The Great Ocean Road. We spend a couple of days on the road; of course, with stopovers. I enjoy living in Victoria; the best place in the world!