BY MONICA DIX —
Project Somalia hosted their first fundraising night on March 12 from 5:00 to 8:00 P.M., about a year after the club was founded. The fundraiser was hosted in the arena and included food donated by Blue Star Cafe, a Somali restaurant, a silent auction, sales of products from SOS Children’s villages and speeches by the club presidents and a local Somali man, Abdul Hamid Ali, CEO of DAAR Engineering.
The club began last year when Lolita Obolenskaya and Leah Jorn, juniors, decided they wanted to create a club to fundraise for organizations in Somalia.
“It’s very impoverished and there are lots of governmental issues that make it unstable and somewhere that needs help,” Jorn said.
Over the past year, the club has mainly focused on smaller fundraisers, like cookie dough bake sales, but they decided they wanted to try something bigger.
Ali, a friend of Obolenskaya’s uncle, had suggested the idea of a fundraising night to raise more money and awareness.
The proceeds from the club’s fundraisers go to benefit SOS Children’s villages, an organization which provides support for families and does advocacy for children’s rights in unstable countries.
“They have a lot of villages in the poorest countries that people don’t want to go into. Mogadishu’s village got bombed a couple years ago … so they’re risking their lives for [the children], like Mothers Without Borders,” Obolenskaya said.
The food for the event was all donated, but the club also received silent auction donations for the event from local businesses like Metro Market, Paper Source and Colectivo.
In the end, the club raised about $1,700.
“It was our first event so we’re proud,” Jorn said. “People were very generous and that was really good to see.”
Evan Schmidt, economics and French teacher, attended the event.
“I thought the event was fantastic … I’m just very proud of the students who take time out of their busy lives to think about and help people who are not as fortunate,” Schmidt said.
Susan Hagström, resident, was not only also present at the event, but also has a personal connection to Somalia.
Hagström had a young Somali man named Abdi Salam stay with her about 13 years ago. When he was 10, Salam had been playing soccer with friends, when one of his friends stepped on a landmine and was killed instantly. Salam was hit with shrapnel in his knee, which then stopped his leg from growing. Salam came to the United States because Hagström’s neighbor, an orthopedic surgeon, was going to operate on him. After his surgery, he feared his return to Somalia. Salam’s father was kidnapped a couple times because people knew he had connections abroad.
“Once they find out that you have relatives or connections abroad you become a target [for extortion],” Hagström said.
Salam had a happy ending, because when his visa was near expiration he was smuggled into Canada, and gained refugee status, but Hagström still sees the need to help the Somali people.
“[Ali] gave a very moving speech, which really struck home. These kids have nothing,” Hagström said. “It was a lovely event; I just wished that more people has come out and supported them.”