Mirror staff reports:
Mohamed Ali, a Federal Way resident and Somali immigrant, was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" in a ceremony that took place Sept. 24.
Ali was integral in keeping the local Somali community safe during a severe winter storm in 2012, making sure that the community was aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas-powered generators, and also connecting many in the community with food and shelter during the storm.
"I was in a unique position to help because I have good contacts at Public Health, I understood the dangers, and I am trusted on health issues in my community," Ali is quoted as saying in a press release from King County.
The Somali immigrant has a master's degree in public health, which helped facilitate his connections during the storm.
"When I received the call of warning, I felt the health of the entire community depended on me, so I had to act," he said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine noted that Ali's actions show the difference an individual can make in the community.
"I offer Mr. Ali my warmest congratulations on this high honor and my heartfelt gratitude for stepping up for our local Somali community in a time of need," Constantine said in a release. "His actions show the crucial role that one person can play in the resilience of the community."
Ali was responsible for contacting a local mosque, the Abubakr Islamic Center, during the 2012 storm, and worked in close conjunction with the mosque to ensure that the Somali community and others had the needed information to stay safe.
According to the county, "they set up automated phone calls to warn about the dangers of carbon monoxide, fielded calls for help, and even rented 4-by-4 vehicles to deliver hot meals and transport community members safely."
The Federal Way resident was also integral in connecting with Public Health-Seattle and King County, and other emergency services, to help make the mosque a temporary shelter, after some members of the Somali community in the area were discovered without heat in their residences.
Thanks to the actions of Ali and others, the county reports that hospital admissions for carbon monoxide poisoning dropped 90 percent from the last large winter power outage in 2006, and also that there were no fatalities in the wake of last year's storm. The county notes that 200 were hospitalized and eight people died in King County during the 2006 winter storm, with the greatest impact to recent immigrants from warmer climates.
Ali is a community leader, having helped establish a Somali Health Board to build relationships between Somali immigrants and the healthcare organizations and share important health information with the community, according to the county. Ali was previously recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2012 for his work during the storm.