By Seth Daniel
For Faisa Sharif, representing the Bay Village and South End neighborhoods for Mayor Martin Walsh as the new neighborhood coordinator couldn’t be more convenient.
That’s because the 10-year resident of the South End lives in Castle Square – bisecting the two communities and within walking distance of most anywhere that she would need to go.
In her new position – where she replaced the former coordinator Sam Chambers – Sharif will also be the liaison to the growing Somali community in Boston.
“First and foremost, I’ve lived in the neighborhood for the past 10 years,” said Sharif, 25. “It’s one thing to approach the neighborhood as a resident and getting up and going to work every day. Living in the neighborhood, I’ve seen how diverse the two neighborhood are. Every few blocks has its own set of issues to address. It will be a great working experience in bringing access to City services to people in the neighborhood. In that role, I can bring a dual perspective as a resident and also let people know what we do on this end and how we work to address neighborhood concerns.”
Sharif came to the United States with her family when she was 5 years old. While her parents were born in Somalia, she was born and grew up in Kenya until migrating to the U.S. After going to places like Tennessee, they returned to Boston for education and family.
“We moved back to Boston because our parents wanted us to go to Massachusetts schools,” she said. “We also had family here. We really moved here to pursue education.”
Sharif graduated from Charlestown High School and left the City to study politics and history at Bard College of Simon’s Rock in the Berkshires.
After college, she returned home to Boston and immediately found herself in the South End.
“When I first moved back, I was a barista at the South End Buttery, mostly the one of Clarendon Street,” she said.
Following that, she worked for Heath Properties and also for the Boston Ballet’s South End campus. At the same time, she did a lot of community and outreach work to the large Somali community at the Islamic Society of Boston on Malcolm X Boulevard.
There, she helped Somali residents get connected to services and other help. She said that many just coming to the United States or Boston often turn to their house of worship for help in getting acclimated, and it was no different there.
That, she said, made it a natural fit for her to become the City’s first liaison to the growing Somali community here.
In her free time, she said one of her favorite things to do is take walks around the South End with her mother.
“I love taking walks with my mom,” she said. “I take her to all of the galleries on Harrison Avenue and to all of the parks. We have so many parks in such a small area. That’s one highlight for me. We’re definitely spoiled with access to the restaurants and art galleries. There is so much to see in these neighborhoods.”