Ms Abeera Abdullah is a student at Fugee School, in Malaysia, an author and a member of the Project Stand Up youth team as well as an inspiring leader

My name is Abeera Abdullah, I’m an 18-year-old student at Fugee School*, in Malaysia. I’ve lived here since 2016 after arriving as a refugee of Somali background from Saudi Arabia.

Although I am from Somalia, I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. I never got the chance to visit my home country, but my mother used to tell me stories about her growing up in Somalia – how the school systems used to work; they used to learn about various things, like arts and even military training for both girls and boys. Of course, that used to happen before the war began.

My mother tongue is Arabic and Somali, I also speak a little bit of Turkish, I learnt it by watching Turkiç TV series and movies. Just as I learnt English too. I have also learnt English more professionally at Fugee School. 

My memory of leaving Saudi is one of the hardest experiences I’ve been through. At first, I didn’t actually believe that we were traveling until I was at the airport. It all happened suddenly, my mum told me that we were going to Malaysia and I just couldn’t digest the idea of travelling. I had never been outside Jeddah (the place I was born) and the Two Holy Mosques. It was difficult to say goodbye to my friends. Some I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to. The first things I noticed when I arrived in Malaysia were the people from different nationalities, and everywhere I looked I saw green plants beside the streets.

Abeera Abdullah, right, with a friend in Malaysia.
Abeera Abdullah, right, with a friend in Malaysia.


Travelling to a new country has made me open-minded. I learnt about different cultures that I never saw back home. My experience moving to Malaysia taught me not to believe the stereotypes that people talk about in relation to different cultures. I miss Saudi a lot. I miss my friends, my Tahfiz (an institute to memorise the holy Quran.) and everything. However, I also enjoy being here in Malaysia. I have experienced things that I wouldn’t even imagine doing in Saudi. At the same time, living here as a refugee is not easy – the waiting for a new home and a new life that is better is difficult.

My dream in the short term is to complete my IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and go to university, and I’d also like to learn new languages, like Spanish, French and Japanese. As an adult, I’d like to be a change-maker in my home country and inspire people to help others and lead by example. I’d also like to publish another book because I love writing. I see myself in the future as a famous author, I want to write stories to share my message to the world and help inspire others to start writing their own stories. Because everyone has a lesson to teach. Hopefully, I will achieve my goals.

My main achievements so far include:

1. Publishing my first book: It’s story about a girl who lives inside a box, and a man called Racism who carries her. You can find my book here.

2. Exploring potential careers by doing different jobs, such as being an author, entrepreneur, making jewellery, teacher and a footballer.

3. Making friends from all around the world: I have met friends from across Asia and learnt about their culture as well as trying their cuisine.

4. Being part of a project: Being a Project Stand Up team member is such an awesome opportunity to both build myself academically and personally. It also gives me a chance to help my community.

5. Being in a podcast: It was the first time I’ve been involved in a podcast; this podcast talks about how we as Project Stand Up are creating innovative ways to tackle the inequality we are facing in our community and also around the world. You can listen to it here.

During my time in Malaysia and Fugee School I’ve been involved in many activities that have allowed me to learn about different cultures and backgrounds, such as going to a leadership camp, being an entrepreneur, and playing sports. I wouldn’t have imagined doing these things before. The thing I most appreciate about Fugee School is not labelling education as just learning inside the classroom but giving us all these opportunities to learn about the real world and gaining life skills that will help us wherever we go. 
I’m open-minded and love learning about the different ways that people live and the surroundings.

Abeera and a friend at a window view in a high-rise.
Abeera, left, is an author, teacher, student, broadcaster and more.


My experience as a member of the Project Stand Up team has taught me a lot of things, including the design-thinking process; how to work in a team; and most importantly, I learnt how to be brave. As well as boosting my self-confidence and motivating me to bring my best to all the different tasks.

My favourite thing about Project Stand Up is that it has given me a chance to give back to my community and empower the youth to step up and take the lead and become problem solvers that will hopefully influence other communities to do the same.

Project Stand Up is currently funded by the innovationXchange of the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

* Fugee School is an initiative started in 2009 to provide education to refugee children and youth. Today, the school provides primary and secondary education to over 160 students living in Malaysia as refugees from different countries. The Fugee School is a project of Payong, a Malaysian non-profit organisation.