Sister University of Abaarso School

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Our Team

The founders of Barwaaqo were behind the incredible success of the Abaarso school, a 7th-12th grade, co-ed boarding school in Somaliland, whose graduates have scholarships to top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown and MIT.

Jonathan Starr, Co-founder

Jonathan was the Founder of the Abaarso School, the incredibly successful 7th-12th grade boarding school in Somaliland. Jonathan served as Headmaster of Abaarso from 2008 to 2015 and is now Headmaster Emeritus in addition to being Executive Director of the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund. Prior to founding Abaarso, Jonathan had a successful career in finance. From 2004 – 2008, he founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan also sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Ava Ramberg, Co-founder and Executive Director

A native of Minnesota, Ava graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School with a degree in Public/Non-Profit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. Ava’s interest in international development began at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Before working for Abaarso School, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She has traveled extensively in East and South Africa and speaks English, French, Swahili and is learning Somali. At Abaarso School, Ava served as the Assistant Headmaster and Director of Development and also taught math from 2011 through 2014. In 2014, Ava returned to the United States to work for Firefly Value Partners, L.P., in New York City as an operations analyst for three year before returning to Somaliland in 2017 to start Barwaaqo. Aside from her role as Executive Director, Ava also serves as a member of the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund’s Board of Trustees and is the Chief Financial Officer for Abaarso School.

Christina Bowden, Assistant Director, Academics, and Faculty of Education

Christina is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia, and later earned her M.Ed. in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University. Between her degrees Christina worked in refugee resettlement, with a focus in education for newly arrived families. She has had the opportunity to work and travel internationally, and is excited to now pursue her goals here in Somaliland. Christina has a passion for using education as a tool for international development, exploring new cultures, and learning from her students.

Hamda Hussein, Faculty of Computer Science and Education, Dean of Second Year Students

Hamda was raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She was part of the 1st Abaarso School class that graduated in 2013. She received a Mastercard Foundation Scholarship to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated in May 2018 with a BS in Neuroscience with honours. While completing her degree she did a number of internships working with healthcare organisations such as the Marcus Autism Center, Dekalb Hospital, Zoo Atlanta, and the Visiting Service of New York. Immediately after graduation, Hamda received an internship to work with Amani Global Works, a non-profit organisation that provides health services in DRC. Hamda is committed to improving Somaliland’s Healthcare system especially for people with mental health illness.

Nora Harless, Faculty of Mathematics, Finance and Operations Director

Originally from Nashville, TN, Nora graduated with honors from New York University (NYU) in 2016. Having studied Spanish language, she conducted research abroad in Havana, Cuba and in Quito, Ecuador, focusing on development and Spanish translation. After graduation, she worked at Barwaaqo’s partner organization, Abaarso School, in Somaliland, teaching pre-algebra. Prior to returning to East Africa, she worked again in South America, completing a fellowship year with Princeton in Latin America as the external relations coordinator for the Carmen Pampa Fund in Nor Yungas, Bolivia. She will be overseeing finances for Barwaaqo University, and aiding in Abaarso School’s alumni operations.

Gabriella Harris, Faculty of Social Sciences and English, Student Life and Wellness

Raised in the south of England, Gabriella graduated from University College London in Classics with French. She spent her years before university teaching at and administrating a home-schooling group in Sussex, teaching in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, travelling India and volunteering for the founder of the Malaysian Green party. She interspersed her studies with research work for ancient historian Bettany Hughes, working on social and gender policy campaigns and her mum’s social enterprise, magazine-editing in Slovenia and volunteering with detainee support groups in London. She spent the last year as a primary teacher in Sudan. She loves being in the sea and mountains, photography and playing music. Having received scholarships and bursaries into a great education she is passionate about everybody having access to quality education and is excited to teach and learn from the young women at Barwaaqo University.

Raquel Freile, Faculty of Mathmatics and Social Sciences, Dean of Third Year Students

Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Raquel graduated from Universidad San Francisco de Quito with a BA in Journalism. She volunteered in Valparaíso, Chile, for over a year, working in different areas with both children and adults. Afterwards, she worked for education focused non-profits in her home country, as a tutor, project planner, and administrator. She spent last year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, getting her Ed.M. in Teaching and Learning. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, playing the piano, and playing football.

Fadumo Yusuf, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Dean of First Year Students

Fadumo was born and raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She was part of Abaarso School’s first cohort of students. Fadumo received her high school diploma from the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut, Simsbury and then studied at the University of Rochester where she majored in Microbiology and minored in Public Health Studies. During her time in the US, she partook in numerous jobs and internships, including Oasis Home Healthcare and the Visiting Nursing Service of New York. Immediately after graduation, Fadumo came back to Somaliland where she worked for Pharo Foundation as a Community Developer Officer and now is joining the faculty of Barwaaqo University.

Deborah Ndjerareou, Faculty of Education and English, Teaching Specialist

Deborah M Ndjerareou was born in Texas and raised in Chad, Central Africa. She holds a Bachelor in Language Studies and an Honors in Spanish Studies from the University of Pretoria in South Africa where she also worked as a tutor and later assistant lecturer. She is fluent in French, Spanish, Ngambaye, and Chadian Arabic. She volunteered in Nicaragua and Italy teaching English to children and adults. She worked in refugee education with NGO’s in Chad, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. She loves languages, traveling and learning about new cultures and traditions.

Ruwaydah Hossain, Faculty of English and Mathematics

Born in Leicestershire, England, Ruwaydah graduated from the University of Leeds in 2015 with a BA in Greek Civilisation and History. Whilst at university she volunteered with refugee families in the north of England and worked in a rural primary school in south Thailand for three months. Upon graduating she moved to Paris to teach as a language assistant with the British Council and later in primary schools in Spain. Having become proficient in Spanish she then moved to Bogotá, Colombia for a year, where she worked with students in the University de Católica. Due to being the eldest of seven children and having lived with families as an au pair, Ruwaydah is interested in conducting research into child and adolescent psychotherapy and is passionate about race relations and women’s rights. She is excited to be a part of the team at Barwaaqo and is looking forward to teaching the students here.

Nimco Yusuf, Administrative Assistant

Nimco was raised in Burao, Somaliland. She graduated this year from Abaarso School and started working at Barwaaqo University as an administrative assistant. Nimco was a proctor in her last year of Abaarso School. Throughout her 12th Grade, she did a couple of internships to support her community such us Dorm Supervisor, Lowers school Intervention, and Dorm Parent. She did primary tutoring in both math and English. She also participated in sports such as running, basketball, and gym during her time at Abaarso School. Nimco wants to study Industrial Engineering in the future.