Somali refugee fosters community in Barron

By Kelly Saran | April 14, 2023


Isaak Mohamed is a man of action.

As the Somali district liaison for the Barron Area Schools, it’s Mohamed’s job to help students while facilitating communication for the school and families.

“I’m a man who wants to help. You know, I feel that, no matter where you go in this world, that you can at least do something, you know, and I wanted to give back,” he said.

Before arriving in the United States Mohamed lived in Uganda, where he assisted in social and educational programming for refugees like himself. After applying to come to the U.S. he ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, excited to live in a warm climate.. But the dry, hot weather proved different from heat he was used to and it became unbearable for Mohamed. He contacted a friend in Wisconsin and found a new home in Barron, joining a growing community of Somali refugees.

After volunteering at Barron Area schools, he worked as a teaching assistant until being hired full-time as the Somali district liaison. He now travels around the district assisting students, translating, and meeting with families when needed.

His desire to help didn’t stop there.

In 2022 Isaak won a seat on the Barron City Council becoming the first Somali to win a local election.

“It’s all about giving back. It’s all about allowing your time, you know, to give to the community that you live in and those who you represent, and you want to be a voice for your community,” Mohamed said.

When he’s not at City Hall or with the school district, Mohamed runs soccer programs, delivers information as a community healthcare worker, and assists wherever he is needed. Mohamed’s desire to help people is reinforced by his Islamic faith. For Mohamed that means being a good neighbor, helping his community, and inspiring others to do the same.

“That’s our, what our prophet, sallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wa- ala ālihi wa’ salaam (peace be upon him), has guided us, told us to do. To be kind, to be a good neighbor, to be nice to your neighbors, to help each other,” Mohamed shares.

It’s that approach that’s led him to strive towards a positive impact on the community he now calls home.

“It’s a great nation that we live, United States,” Mohamed said. “I was one time a refugee with no home, so stateless, but I’m proud to be a citizen.”


This work is part The Wisconsin Muslim Project from PBS Wisconsin, a project supported by the Doris Duke Foundation through the Building Bridges Program. The mission of the Building Bridges Program is to support national efforts, working with U.S. Muslims, to increase mutual understanding and well-being among diverse populations for the benefit of building stronger, inclusive communities.

Kelly Saran

Kelly Saran

Kelly Saran is a multimedia producer for the Wisconsin Life project who grew up in Wisconsin and hopes to one day visit all of the large waterfalls around the state.

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