$53K raised for Somali famine victims; Bono sounds alarm

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From Bono’s shout-out to grassroots fundraising, it was a good weekend for broadening awareness about the famine in the Horn of Africa.

An event held Friday in Minneapolis reeled in about $53,000 in donations and pledges to help the American Refugee Committee provide aid to famine victims in Somalia, organizers say.

That amount will be matched by corporate donations, said a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based ARC.

One of the event’s organizers, Mohamed Hassan of Minneapolis, said the outpouring of support surpassed even his expectations. He and Hassan Mohamud, imam of the Da’Wah mosque in St. Paul, helped put together the event in less than a week.

“For many of us, particularly the Somalis, it’s personal,” Hassan said of the drought’s effect on refugees. “We know what they’re going through. Some people are losing family members to starvation. I lost family members to war and killing.”

There were non-Somalis in the crowd at Friday’s banquet, a promising sign that news about the crisis in the Horn of Africa is reaching the mainstream, Hassan said. On Saturday, he hopes to put on a benefit concert to raise even more cash for those left behind.

Safari Restaurant and Banquet Center held back-to-back-to-back fundraisers.

Restaurant co-owner Jamal Hashi donated the banquet space. Hashi said it’s the responsibility of all Somalis in America to help their extended family and fellow countrymen back home.

“I feel guilty that my fridge is full. I feel guilty that I have a/c on in my house. It could’ve been any of us,” he told MPR’s Rupa Shenoy.

Young people are also pitching in with car washes. And none other than Bono lent his celebrity to the cause through ONE, the advocacy group he co-founded to fight poverty and preventable disease. While performing in Minneapolis Saturday, he gave a plug to the ARC’s Neighbors for Nations campaign and met privately with a number of Somali-American community members before the show.

In the U2 frontman’s own words, according to the ONE website:

We’re here to sound the alarm bell in the United States, where there has been very little media coverage of the food crisis — and now a famine which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of 12 million. This is monstrous. Pay close attention, this is a defining moment for the world. History will be very harsh if we don’t move quickly.

(Photo courtesy of ONE. U2 lead singer and ONE cofounder Bono and K’naan, the Somali-born singer and poet, meet with Somali Minnesotans in Minneapolis last night to discuss efforts to combat the famine in Somali. Left to right are Mohamed Samatar, Shukri Abdinur, Bono, K’naan, and Ruqia Mohamed.)

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