Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Sudan, the daughter of a surgeon and an economist. I am a medical doctor by profession, and I completed my master’s in Public Health in 2013. I founded my first company, Zol and Zola ltd in 2014. Zol and Zola is where my heart lies and it focuses on building a positive community of youth. It’s actives centre around our Clubhouse on Al-Mashtal street in Riyad, Khartoum. I’m currently Managing Director of the company with a team of exceptional ladies, whom I call the Dream Team.
Tell us about your early school days?
I was born and lived in the Ouzuzab area of Khartoum, near my grandfather’s house. When I was three my family and I moved to Ireland. I grew up in the small Irish town of Naas, outside Dublin although I came back to Sudan almost yearly to run through the streets of the small village.
I went to school at St. Mary’s Primary and later Secondary school. It was a catholic girls-only school that had once been a convent. I remember that it was run by nuns, part of the catholic church which we passed every day as we made our way to the old classrooms. Those years impacted my life significantly. The nuns were especially keen that I learn to Irish. I remember on sister in third class constantly asked me to speak in Irish with the guests who visited us. I don’t remember much bullying; the Irish people are lovely. I fell in love with their folklore stories; their poetry. I learnt the history of Ireland and became upset at the injustice inflicted upon Irish by the English. They were good days generally. However so much as I wanted the Green, Orange and white Irish flag to represent me, I always knew I was different.
How many brothers and sisters did you have, how did this impact and effect you?
I have three brothers but no sisters. I’m the eldest child in the family and from a young age I always felt responsible for my brothers’ wellbeing. They are my life and I’m still protective of them and worry constantly. Growing up I always wondered what it would’ve been like living with a sister. It was only years later during University when I lived in student Dorms did I get to experience that feeling. The girls from UMST became my sisters and our bond grows stronger each year still. With them in my life now, I don’t feel like I missed out.
Where did you go to university and what did you study and why?
I studied at the University of Medical Sciences and Technology. I graduated from medical school in 2012. Medicine was a carrier choose that my parents preferred and it definitely wasn’t my first choose, had I truly been given the option back then. However, it turned out to be the best decision I every took I may not always enjoy working as a clinical doctor now but the entire experience of moving back to Sudan from Ireland and working within the Sudanese community paved the way too much greater opportunities in my life. If I had to do it over, I would have taken the same path.
What do you feel is your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement has been coming to terms with who I am as a person and accepting my reality. Growing up as the only black, Muslim and later Hijabi girl in the small, white and catholic town of Naas left me feeling different for most of my childhood. The people were wonderful and I love Ireland. But I never felt I belonged especially when my family insisted we adopt Sudanese ways of life. I had to overcome a huge mental barrier in my path. It took many years to find myself and discover what I truly want from my life and what makes me happy. Anything else, whether its working in community oriented projects, establishing my company: Zol and Zola, or advancing my public health carrer would not have been possible, given my state of mind at the time.
What does being Sudanese mean to you?
Sudan for me is an exotic and chaotic world with loud music, different tribes and a diverse people bond by cultures and traditions. I love being Sudanese and I enjoy watching the reaction on foriegners people’s faces as I say I’m from a tribe called al-Donagla. It is a source of pride for me, to be so different, so exotic. But although I am Sudanese imp also Irish. I’m Arab and definitely an African. I am black as much as I am a halabeya. For me my identity is precious because I believe that I fit in both the West and the East. I can adapt to both environments. I think this has been an advantage for me when building the Zol and Zola community. It has left me tolerant and accepting of people of all colors, traditions and religions.
What do you rate as success and how do you define it?
I have very defined goals I want to achieve within the next year, 5 years, 10 years and so on. Achieving my goals and surpassing them are an objective way to measure my success. I learnt, perhaps the hard way that you can’t be blinded with only one dream or all-consuming goal. So for the sake of my health I try to balance between personal relationship, carrier and spiritual goals.
Who would you say is the most influential Sudanese?
I’ve met with a number of Zol and Zola Silver Club members over the past year. Although their names might not be very well known right now in the Sudanese community they have phenomenal personalities and wonderful ideas which have the potential to cause a real ripple of positive influence in the community.
Who would you say is the most successful Sudanese?
I’ve been working with the smart delivery Sudan team over the past months at Zol and Zola Club. Such impressive entrepreneurs, they have just started their journey to success but they are heading in the right direction! The future looks bright for them!
What is your favorite quote?
At the end of your life, you will have traded your life, for either no dream, a small dream or a large dream”
Anything Else you want to add?
Check us out at facebook.com/zolandzolaclub. We are launching a large campaign across Sudan called #Abda_Baik. All change and success begins with the individual, their habits and their attitude. I know this is true because I tried it myself. We now want to spread this message to the Sudanese community.
Please share your Contact information with those interested in connecting with you:
Wafa S.H. Elamin
Thank you very much for your time, very much appreciated
Ashraf Khalifa on behalf of Sudanpreneur Group