“A couple of years ago, I started hearing this new radio station and hearing people talking about this radio station, Sagal Radio. It was sending its message to my community. Well, I knew students out here who used to intimidate others and didn’t know how to focus on what they should be doing, and I thought this station might talk about that. So, I looked for the director, and he told me to come work at the station. That’s how I started.”
Aden’s community includes many refugees from East Africa. Arriving with little or no English and few possessions, they struggle to build a new life and learn how to survive in this foreign land. Sagal Radio (WTAB AM 1420), an all-volunteer operation, broadcasts radio programs in Swahili, Amharic, Somali and English, providing a critical communication link for refugees in the Atlanta area.
Over 40,000 refugees in the metro area depend on Sagal Radio. “The station’s main purpose is to update people about local and international news. But it also helps people in other ways. There are some people in the community who don’t know where family members are, and the radio station helps the families reunite. It brings people together. It also talks to older people about their health – maybe it tells them where they can get exercise classes at a gym. And it also addresses young people. Like when I encourage students to get tutors to help them with studying, and I can tell them where to find a good tutor.”
“My father always told me to have the higher hand, not the lower hand—what he meant was to be the one who is giving not the one who is only receiving. That’s also in our religion: to help and encourage. So I am someone who assists people. It’s my way of living. Because whenever a person is encouraged, it helps them achieve 100%. It’s in the genes of the human.”
When Sagal Radio needed encouragement in order to achieve 100%, The Community Foundation was able to help. In 2007, the station was struggling to stay on the air when it received a Neighborhood Fund grant to work on increasing its funding base and community partnerships. The results were tremendous. Sagal Radio is now partnering with Emory University in a major immigrant health education and media project that produces and broadcasts health education messages featuring lessons created by East African youth who attend school with Mohamed Aden.
“Sagal Radio has helped build connections within my community. Families are more connected because of it. And I feel that connection. A lot of people respect me because I volunteer at the station. They look up to me and that’s more important than just getting paid. It helps me feel I can do anything. So, now I’m wanting to study to become an electrical engineer at Georgia Tech. Everything runs on electricity, even cars are starting to be electric so I think that’s a good field. And I could still volunteer at Sagal Radio.”