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Since its founding in 2007, The Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) has sought to improve the lives of Africans who live in diamond producing countries by funding educational opportunities for underserved citizens. It’s a type of compassionate capitalism where the flow of wealth and resources travel in both directions, not just one way: out. 

To create outreach and visibility of the program, DEF has established an ambassadorship program championed by influential models and world citizens who seek to spread information and awareness of DEF’s mission. Dubbed “Africa Angels” their ranks include American model Selita Ebanks, Tanzanian model Flaviana Matata, American celebrity Kim Kardashian, and South African model Nicola Breytenbach-Steiner.

Recently a new African Angel was added to DEF, Rahma M., a Saudia Arabian-born Norway-raised Somali model. 

GlobalGrind spoke to Rahma M. earlier this week about her work with DEF and her time in Norway, on the eve of the DEF’s latest Text to Give campaign, an initiative that allows folks to donate to DEF via text messaging.    

Here’s some of what was said.

You were raised in Norway?

I was! My family is actually from Somalia. My dad is actually three-quarters Kenyan and I was born in Saudi Arabia because my dad was working there at the time. By the time we were supposed to go back to Somalia the war started and we couldn’t really stay, so we immigrated to Norway, out of all places. I did my schooling in there and really feel lucky to have been afforded a great education. I’ve been in London since, just studying. I recently finished my degree so I’m quite happy.   

Congratulations!

Thank you! 

Can you talk a little bit about your parents? Your father worked for the Red Cross. 

He used to work for the Red Cross, I guess that’s why I am so compelled to help others.  

And your altruistic spirit comes from watching him work?

Yes, from watching him work and just watching what he does and the type of people he worked with. My dad was really accomplished, he spoke about seven languages and he helped us come to Norway. He made it his priority to help other people while working for the Red Cross. When we were in Norway, I would sometimes go work with him and just see what he does. I’ve always felt like I’m morally responsible to do something because I’ve been given that opportunity. I wanted to get a degree within Peace and Conflict and try to change things around rather than just send money to solve a solveable issue. 

So your early education is in Norway and you moved to London to study Peace and Conflict at what University?

Metropolitan University.  There’s two universities in London that does Peace and Conflict studies so I went to one of them which was in London.

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This was an undergraduate degree and now you have your masters?

Yes, I started on my masters in Psychology because, initially, when I did my undergraduate in Peace and Conflict studies, I wanted to understand development as a whole. Once I finished I realized that you need to understand people. It’s not just about development; you need to understand how people work and how people think and so I thought if I could combine both of them it could be easier for me to just work with people generally whether its development or whether its in any other field I would like to get into as well. 

And where and when did entering modeling and fashion come into play?

You know that was really random. I was just spotted in London and I didn’t really want to model at the time you know. I went purely for studies and I wasn’t really sure about modeling. After giving the idea alot of thought, I decided I’d give it a try. I did it part time and eventually, when I finished a couple of semesters at school, on my breaks I did it more often and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the creativity in fashion. And I soon realized that I could use my modeling career to enhance my efforts in philanthropy work.

Can you talk a little bit about how you became involved with and aware of the Diamond Empowerment Fund? 

I became aware of DEF a couple of years ago. I was here in New York for Fashion Week and I met up with Ellen Haddigan.  

Ellen Haddigan from RUSH?

Yes, from RUSH. At the time, Ellen was the Executive Director for DEF. She was kind enough to share more about the causes mission and vision. At the time, I was quite busy with my modeling career & academics. Because I was based in London, it was even more challenging for me to be truly involved. However, last fall DEF had their first international fundraiser in London (DEF London: Diamonds in the Sky) and I was able to reconnect with the DEF team.  

After completing my degree, I decided to focus more of my energy on giving back. Because I felt a strong connection with DEF, I knew it would be the perfect place to start. The fact that DEF is working so hard to show how a Diamond can equal Love, well for me, that was the most important thing and why I wanted to join DEF. 

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What countries are or what citizens benefit from the DEF funds?

The funds that DEF raises help benefit their current beneficiaries based in Johannesburg — CIDA City Campus and African Leadership Academy. DEF has just named a third beneficiary: Botswana Top Achiever’s program.

The fact that DEF is able to select exemplary programs is inspiring. When you hear the students stories as I did at DEF London, well you just know that DEF is doing amazing things.  

Can you tell us about any upcoming events with the DEF?

It’s funny you asked because I am preparing for a trip to Las Vegas. DEF will be partaking in this years JCK Las Vegas Show.  

What is JCK? 

Well it’s a convention that brings together over 2,500 different jewelry companies from over 222 different countries. It will be great for DEF to engage different companies and spread the mission of the organization. It will be a good time, especially because my fellow Angel, Nicola Breytenbach-Steiner, will be there. We are going to participate in DEF’s 2nd Annual Breakfast, Cultural Parade, interviews with JCK TV, and much more. It is a great chance to just really talk about our mission and the new DEF because we’ve just done a new logo and launched a campaign, and updated our site.    

Be sure to check out Rahma M & all the work DEF is doing at www.diamondempowerment.org.