It’s almost as if Hani Jacobson was destined for a career in healthcare. Hani learned the art of caretaking from her mother from an early age, as they spent two years of her childhood in Kenyan refugee camps. “I remember my mom taking care of a whole village,” she says. “If someone needed water more than us, she would give it to them and figure it out from there.” Hani, her parents, and eleven siblings came to Clarkston, a small town in Georgia where they lived until she finished high school. Soon after, they moved to St. Cloud.
“Minnesota has the largest Somali community outside of Somalia, so it was a natural home.”
She became a registered nurse and has since been an advocate for immigrants and families of color, identifying barriers to medical care and working to eliminate them. When Coronavirus began to engulf the country, she knew who would be the most at risk. She joined the Somali Community COVID-19 Task Force, making appearances on Somali radio, driving to different businesses to translate safety protocols, and walking door-to-door, handing out masks and informing people of risks where flyers would not suffice.
Today, Hani and her husband Nathan are raising their four children, and her natural inclination to serve has drawn her to education. Witnessing how others were struggling during this crisis inspired her to run for school board.
“Education and health, they’re related. It’s the lack of access and understanding of how to navigate these systems. Parents are facing housing and food insecurity and on top of that, they are fighting for their health.”
She wants her children to look at her the same way she looks at her mother — with pride. Hani embodies a lesson carried through generations of women: that compassion is often your greatest resource. As her parents taught her,
“Community is not just your immediate family, it’s everyone. If your neighbor is suffering and you’re doing well, that doesn’t mean much.”
Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards recognize the significant impact four honorees have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.
Meet the other heroes: