Fartun Weli

CEO – Isuroon

I am a community organizer; I think about a holistic health community where there is a one-stop shop that represents this: Seward Coop is the place for me.

I am also the founder and Executive Director of Isuroon which is a women-led, community-driven organization motivated by the belief that Somali women deserve to be healthy and have a strong voice. We are a linguistic and cultural bridge connecting women and their families with wellness information, trusted health care providers, financial literacy, civic engagement, and leadership. Our name, Isuroon, means “a woman who cares for herself.”

I want to give back to all the support Seward Coop members gave to Isuroon’s food shelf. Isuroon/Somali elders wanted to stablish an ethnic food shelf and encountered many challenges, including racism. Someone emailed me and said, “poor people have no choice so if a pork is given to you, you must eat.” I also realized mainstream food shelves are part of the reasons BIPOC/poor people are in bad health due to the processed food they take. When I connected to the people who were in the system to ask for help to open our food shelf, they tried everything to discourage me from moving forward.

After a long struggle, Seward Coop’s SEED grant helped fund our food shelf in a small room where we gave dry goods that are culturally specific and kosher/halal. That small food shelf now services between 400-750 families per month. I thought about how to give back and would like to serve on the board to be a bridge builder and enhance the services the stores currently provide.

At Isuroon, our team works with the community in a collaborative and participatory way. Everyone is heard and contributes through different ways: written, oral storytelling, strategist, doers, and so on. In addition, a collaborative environment can address power dynamic issues, address racism and eliminate transactional relationships. I would bring this experience to my work on the board.

For the future, I want to see Seward Co-op reflect the state’s demographic changes and create a foundation that funds food justice programs and farmers of color.