Youth raise funds to end Somalia’s famine

By Amy Badry

On August 4, nine cousins, aged 18 to 27, gathered on the outskirts of Calgary for their collective walk to Edmonton ­– 303 km. The walk was part of their fundraising initiative, “Step up for Somalia.”

“My sister and I were watching what was happening back home in Somalia and we knew that we couldn’t just sit there and not do anything,” said Khadija Abdi.

Somalia is currently experiencing its worst drought in 60 years and famine is widespread.

“What is important to remember is that no matter where you are from you are a human being and everyone is entitled to water, food and compassion,” said Madina Abdi.

Filomena Abdi, mother to Madina and Khadija and aunt to the rest, said she is proud of the youth.

“It has all come full circle now. In 1993 my husband and I brought 17 family members over from Somalia with the help of the Canadian government and generous donations from Calgarians,” she said. “Now they are doing fundraising for Somalia. They are good role models to future generations.”

The cousins arrived in Edmonton Sunday afternoon, each walking between 40 and 50 km a day.

The group encountered heat and rain, as well as mosquitoes during their trip.

“It was pretty smooth but the third day was a bit harder,” said Moleed Osman, a business student at the U of C. “There was rain for four hours and our van ran over a porcupine. It was just like everything was going against us that day.”

The walk for them was representative of the walk many Somalis take to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia to flee famine and violence.

“We motivated each other a lot,” said Osman. “We reminded ourselves that people who are going through this are doing it without running shoes. They are doing it without water. They are doing it without a safety van checking up on them. They are doing it having kids on their back. They are doing it with not knowing what direction they are going. They are doing it without knowing if there will be food for them when they get to the refugee camps. They are doing it with a lot more insecurities.”

The group was greeted in Edmonton by other Somali youth.

“It was really cool because it was the first time Somali youth from Calgary and youth from Edmonton collaborated like this,” said Osman.

Since the walk finished, the cousins have been contacted by other Somali youth across the nation and even in the United Kingdom about what they can do in their communities.

“We really motivated a lot of Somalis in other cities,” said Osman. “It is causing people to actually step up and do a walk in their city or town.”

The cousins said social media increased awareness about Step up for Somalia and connected them with others across the nation.

For Osman, the walk really pushed home the point that women in the Somali community can make a big difference.

“My three girl cousins are the ones who came up with this idea and instead of saying ‘they’re crazy,’ I followed along,” he said. “They really inspired me. They are leaders.”

The cousins planned and executed the walk all within a two-week time period.

“We did our Facebook page, our Twitter, our online blog, all in one night. We knew this is something we had to do really quickly because what is happening back home is very severe,” said Khadija Abdi.

Osman said people were surprised at how successful they were at raising funds and awareness in such a short period of time.

“What really helped was that we all knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses and worked off that,” said Osman. “My cousin is trying to be a journalist so she sent every news station a press release and that is how they got on board with us. My other cousin has a degree in communications and I took in my business and administration skills.”

As of press time Step Up for Somalia has raised $24,7300, $14,730 more than their original goal. All donations are going to Oxfam Canada. The Canadian government also announced they plan to match each donation dollar.

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