News / USA

Somali-Americans Help Drought Victims

Minnesotans raise more than $300,000 for famine relief

Somali-Americans in Minnesota at a car washing fundraiser to help Somali drought victims.
Somali-Americans in Minnesota at a car washing fundraiser to help Somali drought victims.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States and, as drought and famine take a devastating toll on their homeland, Somali immigrants are taking action to help victims back home.

As she watches televised images of starving Somali mothers and children, Fatima Abdi, 19, remembers her mother’s stories about the country’s 1992 famine. “When I was being born, my Mom had to go through all of that. One year after the war happened, my family was fleeing when my Mom was pregnant.”

Abdi’s family settled in Minnesota, where she’s now a college student. When her friend suggested a fundraiser to help the famine victims, they started brainstorming and recruiting other young people in the community.

“I called people, contacted people on Facebook, e-mails, talked to all of my friends, neighbors and let them know what was going on, give them ideas," says Zahra Farah, Abdi's friend. "There are so many ideas out there; a picnic, a carwash, knocking on doors, doing a walk. We put these ideas on the table, thinking what we can do for our people who are dying over there.”

The best idea, Abdi says, was a bake sale. “We baked traditional cookies. We sold drinks, doughnuts, cupcakes.”

And they made more money than they expected.

“Our goal was $600 and we went over it. We raised $627.”

Abdi and Farah donated the money to the American Refugee Committee (ARC), an international humanitarian organization based in Minneapolis.

“A lot of young people are very adamant on doing as many things as quick as possible,” says Shukri Abdinur, a program assistant with ARC. “Our whole community is actually coming together. We had the masjids that are involved in fundraising. The younger kids, the students are also involved in fundraising. We have carwashes. They are very motivated in doing it.”

And, she says, there’s been a gratifying response from outside the Somali-American community.

“Our non-Somali neighbors also definitely contributed in bringing their cars to carwashes. People call in everyday to also donate money and gifts and different types of funding.”

So far, the Minnesotans have raised more than $300,000, according to Said Sheik-Abdi, ARC’s program manager for Somalia. He says the organization began working with the Somali community in Minnesota and all over the United States two years ago. It just launched a relief campaign in cooperation with Somali-Americans to develop fund-raising efforts and provide a secure way to send humanitarian aid back home.

“We did food distribution. We did distribute non-food items," says Sheik-Abdi. "And it’s not all about food. It’s about shelter, clear water, it’s about the health, it’s about providing security for those people who come to Mogadishu."

Sheik-Abdi says the situation in Somalia today is worse than it was during the 1992 famine because the country has not had a functioning government for the last 20 years. Very few humanitarian organizations have been able to work inside Somalia. In addition, many of the areas hardest-hit by drought and famine are controlled by al-Shabab, a militant group the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. That’s challenging, admits Sheik-Abdi, but he says ARC is doing everything possible to make sure the famine relief doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

“We’re working inside Somalia where the African Union troops are. So we’re not working in the area of al-Shabab. We have our staff on the ground who are directly providing the service to the people who really need assistance. We have Somali-Americans who know their community, who have skills and have connections, helping us to make sure that the food reaches to the right people.”

That’s ARC’s immediate relief plan. Sheik-Abdi says there is also a long-term strategy for Somalia.

“In the month of October, the Somali people, those in the south-central area, expect to have rain. If these people who are internally displaced wanted to go back and do some farming, then we’ll help them do that," he says. "We’re working with local agricultural partners to make sure that this doesn’t happen ever again, and if it happens, how to quickly respond. Because in the south-central area, there are two rivers, there's enough water there. So how can we reserve water and use it when there is drought or there is no rain.”

The goals of the American Refugee Committee in Somalia are the same as in the other countries where it works. But Said Skeik-Abdi says the vital involvement of Somali-Americans gives this effort a special meaning.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs