- Designation: Executive Director
- Company: WA West African Center
Pa Ousman Joof is the founder and Executive Director of the Washington West African Center (WAWAC), an organization he has been running since 2017. Prior to founding WAWAC, like many immigrants, Pa worked various menial jobs, including being an Uber driver and pizza delivery driver.
In 2008, Pa was arrested and detained by ICE for four months, released on an order of supervision, and put on a monitoring bracelet for nine months. His desire for freedom and independence led him to move to Alaska from Georgia and eventually to Washington State. Pa Ousman struggled and lived in fear of being deported for 18 years, only becoming a US citizen on September 7th, 2022.
During his struggles, Pa endured eviction, disconnection of utilities, and having no money to buy food or diapers for his children. He did not qualify for medical insurance for years and had to wait for nature to heal him whenever he got sick or visited the ER – resulting in bad credit. These experiences inspired Pa Ousman to establish WAWAC to provide the services and support he needed but could not find as an undocumented immigrant to his people.
Pa went through these hardships with his wife, Amie Secka, who is also his personal assistant. Amie was also arrested by ICE in 2012 and put on deportation while nursing a one-year-old baby. Together with their support staff and volunteers, they continue to provide culturally relevant services to the West African community in Washington, offering an After-School Program and Summer Camp for children, monthly Grandma hangout for seniors, Weekly Food Drive (Washington West African Market), Emergency Transportation, Language Interpretation/Translation, Outreach and Advocacy, A Drop-In-Center that provides case management and help the West African community apply for resources, including scholarships, jobs, unemployment, medical insurance and other government benefits. “WAWAC is essentially
a one-stop hub that provides and links the West African community in Washington with all kinds of resources. If they need anything, they come to us, we if don’t have it, we go find it” Said Pa Ousman Joof
Pa Ousman takes this work personally because of his lived experience. He built WAWAC from scratch operating from his Living room for 3 years. He opened the WAWAC Center in Lynnwood in 2020 and ran it as an all-volunteer organization using his own resources with support from his loved ones and a few community members. In 2022 WAWAC served a considerable number of people, earning the title of “The African Non-profit of the Year 2022” by Channel-A TV, and Pa Ousman Joof was named the “African Non-profit Executive Director of the Year”.
In 2022, WAWAC served over 5000 people including men, women, children, and seniors. With the support of the WAWAC board, within 3 years, Pa Ousman was able to set up a fully functional office with 6 staff, 10 different programs, and an annual operating budget of over $1.3 million. Currently, Pa sits on several boards, including the Snohomish County Racial Equity Housing Advisory Board, the City of Lynnwood Parks Love Co-Design team, and the Washington State Department of Health Collaborative Thought Partner, where he champions and advocates for Racial Equity.
-Member of the Bafrow Youth Advocacy Group
-Secretary General of the Youths Against AIDS Network (Y.A.A.N) Gambia Chapter of the Global Alliance Against Aids Network
-1st Deputy Speaker of the Banjul Youth Parliament and National Assembly Representative of The Gambia National Youth Parliament.
-Social Committee member of the Atlanta Gambian Emergency Relief Association (A.G.E.R.A)
– Children Affairs Coordinator
– Atlanta Gambian Emergency Relief Association A.G.E.R.A
– Social Committee Chairman of the Senegambian Association of Anchorage
– President of the African Association of Alaska.
-Member of the Washington Community Alliance
-Member the of Washington Nonprofit Executive Directors
-Member of the BIPOC Executive Director’s Coalition
-Member of Snohomish County Racial Equity Housing Advisory Board
-Washington State Department of Health’s Collaborative Thought Partner
-Committee member City of Lynnwood Park’s Love Task Force Committee
-Member of the Mukilteo School District Superintendent’s Key Communicator Group
-Member of The King County Housing Trust Fund Equity Group
Pa Ousman Joof loves to network and build relationships with other community leaders. He attended several trainings, meetings, seminars, and workshops in the Nonprofit industry in Washington where he built relationships and learned best practices from his fellow community leaders. Through Pa Ousman’s dedication and leadership, WAWAC was named the nonprofit of the month of October 2020 by Washington Nonprofits “Member Spotlight”. He was also one of few nonprofit leaders in Washington who were interviewed by Crosscut, (The Washington State Nonprofit newsletter) about the “Why some WA Nonprofits face high barriers when applying for federal relief funds”
Pa Ousman also works as a part-time Wollof and Mandinka interpreter for the King County Courthouse and other agencies that need interpretation services. In his free time, Pa enjoys taking a walk or riding a bike with his kids.
Pa Ousman can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his social media handles (Pa Ousman Joof)
Watch Pa Ousman Joof’s immigration story here https://youtu.be/lG–LnSIxNA
Watch the Non-Profit of the Year Award Acceptance video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxroQeI2-Kc&t=4s
Watch Pa Ousman Joof’s intervention at the 2022 Housing 1st Partner conference https://youtu.be/HddEYIlfR9M