Having coffee with Bashir Abdi

Op de koffie bij Abdi

Olympic medallist, Bashir Abdi, has decided to take on the ambassadorship of Ghent's Komaf Coffee project. Why did he choose Komaf Koffie? Why does he feel connected to the project? Does he actually like coffee? All these questions haunted my mind, and yes, I got the chance to look for the answers. I am Floor Grymonprez, an intern at Gent Fair Trade, and I went for coffee at Komaf Koffie with Bashir Abdi.

Bashir and I met at -how could it be otherwise- Komaf Koffie's mobile coffee cart. There, we were offered a coffee by the three baristas on duty: Maab, Abdolreza and Morteza. After a brief chat with the baristas and a smile -after all, smiles are not optional at Komaf Koffie-, I immediately jumped in to ask what his favourite word is in Dutch.

I think the word 'maybe'. I had only been in Ghent for three weeks when my OKAN teacher said we might have a test tomorrow. 'Maybe' in Somali means 'beggar'. So I thought he was saying we were going to beg tomorrow. And I remembered that for a very long time. Still do.

You are from Somalia where you fled the country at a very young age. From 2002, you came to Belgium. What was that like for you?

Coming to Ghent was very special. Everything was new: a new world, new culture, new language. Even the people looked completely different from those in Africa. I had never seen anything new before in my life. I had to start from scratch.

I have read that the name 'Bashir' in Somalia means 'he who brings happiness'. Do you live by that too?

Not necessarily, but I hope I am a person who is very spontaneous. And besides that, I always try to make people happy.

Do you think this also has something to do with your commitment to Komaf Coffee?

This certainly has to do with my commitment to komaf coffee. The Komaf coffee project is a wonderful initiative that brings people together and creates opportunities for newcomers. After all, coffee makes people happy.

There are so many ways to start somewhere in society and to belong. For me it's through sport, for them it's through coffee, just because they have a passion for it. So it can be compared to what sport means to me. Coffee also means a lot to me, by the way.

Op de koffie bij Bashir

You say coffee means a lot to you. So is coffee a social thing for you?

Coffee brings people together anyway. Meeting up to drink coffee together is one of my favourite activities. While drinking coffee, you tell stories. You also drink it as a break between work. No, I prefer to drink my coffee with as many people together as possible. The more people, the more joy.

Meeting people and engaging with people is a big part of the project.

When I came here, I didn't speak the language either. But through sports, I met a lot of people and made friends for life. It will be the same for them with this project. Coffee brings people together. By getting together and talking to people, their language will improve anyway. They will even make friends for life and create a lot of self-confidence. They become 'different' people and that is precisely why Komaf Koffie is a wonderful initiative. So the project can definitely help to practise Dutch.

What really won you over to take on the ambassadorship of Komaf Coffee?

I chose to become an ambassador for Komaf Coffee because it matches my own story. Besides, coffee itself is something I drink every day. It is a wonderful initiative that offers newcomers a signpost in society. Everyone has to start somewhere. For me through sports, for them through coffee and there are so many other paths. I just know it is a full-fledged initiative. Otherwise, I wouldn't lend my face as an ambassador. I am really over the moon about this initiative and I have no doubt that a lot of great results will come from it.

You are also an ambassador for SportAround and many more initiatives in Ghent. Do you think there are similarities and cooperation opportunities with Komaf Koffie?

There are definitely collaboration opportunities between the other organisations I am an ambassador for. Especially since Komaf Koffie are still looking for places to stand. Especially to places where people come together and those are just places where we are also active. And so there are a lot of opportunities for our organisations to work together. We will definitely support this.

Bashir Abdi, thank you immensely for your time and inspiring answers.

Floor Grymoprez

Floor was involved in the Komaf Coffee initiative from the start as an intern. At Gent Fair Trade, she is committed to guiding the baristas, and helping to shape the project in terms of content and practice. Floor studies Social Work at Hogeschool Gent.

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