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Model Citizen

How a Buffalo transplant became a Buffalo ambassador

Juweria Dahir (BA ’15) at Buffalo City Hall Council Chamber.

By Julie Wesolowski

Published July 10, 2017

Until three years ago Juweria Dahir (BA ’15) knew no one in Buffalo other than her husband and his family. Now she is more deeply immersed in the workings of this city, and in the lives and fortunes of its people, than most native-born residents. 

Professionally she works for the mayor as external affairs manager in the city’s Division of Citizen Services, through which she leads community service programs such as AmeriCorps VISTA, Citizen Participation Academy and Buffalo’s Urban Fellows Internship Program. Outside of work, she directs H.E.A.L.Women Empowerment of Buffalo, a local program within H.E.A.L. International, a nonprofit organization that teaches life skills to socially and economically disadvantaged women, many of whom are refugees. All that she does, whether professionally or in a volunteer capacity, reflects a personal mission to help refugees, women and populations in need. 

A former refugee herself, the 25-year-old Dahir is uniquely understanding of their plight. “You become a refugee because something has gone terribly wrong, where your best option is to abandon your home, your job, your loved ones and sometimes your identity,” she says. Born in Somalia amid a civil war, she was less than a year old when she fled Mogadishu with her mother and siblings. They first relocated to Switzerland and seven years later settled in Birmingham, England. 

She ended up in Buffalo as a result of love—her now-husband grew up in the city and is currently pursuing his PhD at UB in biochemistry. Having already begun college in England when they met, she also transferred to UB; she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in sociology in 2015 and is now working on her master’s in urban and regional planning. 

As an undergrad at UB, Dahir received a WNY Prosperity Fellowship, which awards civic-minded students committed to Western New York with funding and networking opportunities. It was through the fellowship that she landed an internship with Buffalo’s Urban Fellows; after graduation, she went to work for the mayor part time, eventually working her way up to her current high-profile position. 

Dahir finds inspiration in the example of her mother, who would frequently ask her, “How will you take that raw talent of yours and turn it into something real and tangible?” You could argue she has already done that, but she has really only just begun. After receiving her master’s, she hopes to lead urban renewal efforts to keep communities intact within Buffalo’s most vulnerable populations. 

In the meantime, she is diligently working to make the city a better place to live in for all of its residents. “Everybody has their own calling and if we each embrace it, the world might just be a better place,” she says. “I think we all have a responsibility to help out on this planet.” 

Luckily for Dahir, helping people in need, no matter who they are or where she is, comes naturally. “I wake up most days where all I want to do is what I get to do,” she says.