Business-in-residence Spotlight: ABISA

Clearing the path of socio-economic and civic integration

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Children dancing at ABISA’s first annual backpack giveaway.

What do they do? 

The African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA)’s main goal is to help resolve the gap between African immigrants in metro Detroit and the resources they need to clear the path to economic mobility, civic integration, and social and cultural inclusion. They do this by advocating for mentor programs in education, teaching ESL classes, running immigration clinics, providing free legal aid, and working to educate immigrants on societal needs and civic engagement opportunities.

Who?

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Seydi Sarr, founder of ABISA and interviewee

Seydi Sarr founded ABISA as a result of the recurring problems within Detroit’s West African community, saying, “It’s disheartening to see families come here and make all these sacrifices. Yet, 20 years later their children are working the same low-paying jobs they did without any progress.” Therefore, she created ABISA to put a stop to this incessant cycle.

As a West African Immigrant, Seydi experienced the same trials and tribulations as her clients. She is thankful for this experience considering it allows her to be empathetic towards her clients, realize the urgency of their problems, and translate the unspoken need of the community

Originally, Seydi attended nursing school; however, shortly after she realized academic rigor was not the only requirement for a career. Rather, she needed something that fueled her with passion. Having a background in Social work and Social Justice, she decided it would be best to pursue this line of work, saying “It just came naturally”.  To this day, her passions have not dimmed, and she wakes every day fulfilled and thankful for the opportunity to have a positive impact on someone’s life through her work.

Goals:

ABISA has a variety of goals, including but not limited to:

  • Helping immigrants overcome language barrier
  • Raising awareness of programming and funding that is available and important to the West African immigrant community
  • Providing aid to those attempting to gain citizenship
  • Helping immigrants secure access to economic opportunities
  • Advocating for additional/higher education

What’s Next?

  • The App: In the coming year, ABISA hopes to produce an app that would provide access to legal aid, community workshops, meetings, and other community events. Furthermore, it would broadcast information regarding health fairs, immigration forums, citizenship classes, and grant application meetings.
  • The Radio Show: They also hope to improve their reach by investing in a radio program geared toward African immigrants that would inform them about various services: available social assistance, health programs, and education services.
  • Literacy Trainings: Lastly, ABISA hopes to create community language and business workshops and certification classes in a variety of neighborhood and communities. These courses would equip African immigrants with the proper knowledge and abilities to run a business, work with children, and to pursue social and educational pathways with confidence.

Seydi’s Advice:

“Develop skills in college, not just an education. Build your network, get your connections. Become comfortable with navigating necessary spaces.” Furthermore, Seydi suggests that high school students do their research and see what works best for them, considering college is not right for everyone. Therefore, choose something you know you love doing and invest in it.

ABISA is working at the Green Garage under a Bradley Fellowship, which welcomes a passionate, community-minded entrepreneur for a three-month opportunity to connect with the Green Garage coworking community and grow their business or nonprofit here. The Bradley Fellowship is named after Green Garage co-founder Tom Bradley.

Want to learn more about ABISA and how to get involved? Contact her @ singhiam@hotmail.com.

Green Garage business-in-residence spotlights are written by Nehe-Miah Scarborough, a student at Detroit Cristo Rey High School who’s interning with the Green Garage.

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