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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs