MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mohamed Hassan gets emotional when he hears about the famine devastating Somalia, recalling his own months-long walk from Mogadishu to Kenya two decades ago as a teenager fleeing the civil war.

Now Hassan and other Somalis here are digging deep to help.

“I’ve lived through starvations, hunger. I’ve lived in a refugee camp,” Hassan said. “Because of my relationship to the people of Somalia back home, but also because of past experiences, I feel the pain. I cannot afford to sit back and watch people go through these experiences.”

From Facebook campaigns to car washes and concerts to local collection sites, Minnesota’s Somali community — the nation’s largest at an estimated 25,000 people — is raising tens of thousands of dollars to help the starving masses.

Though an overall total isn’t known, Somalis have helped raised roughly $100,000 for the American Refugee Committee, including $47,000 at a single event last week. Another group, Amoud Foundation, reported raising $94,000 from the Twin Cities in less than two weeks.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen an emergency like this where the diaspora is at the center of the response,” said Daniel Wordsworth, the president and chief executive of American Refugee Committee. “They are all taking a lead … We don’t have to convince the Somalis to care. They care more than we ever will.”

But Minnesota Somalis are taking precautions. The state has been the center of a long-running federal investigation into the recruiting of Americans to join al-Shabab, a terror group responsible for much of the violence in Somalia. As part of that investigation, two Minnesota women were accused last summer of soliciting money and clothes for refugees in Somalia but steering the money instead to al-Shabab.

To guard against that, Somalis are carefully partnering with or donating to long-established relief organizations.

Before donating, people “have to think twice,” said Hassan Mohamud, the imam at Islamic Da’wah Center in St. Paul and an organizer of relief efforts. “Everybody wants to pay and everyone is generous to pay, but they want to make sure they won’t be in trouble if they give this.”

“The community is very careful,” said Safia Yasin Farah, who started a Facebook page, Somalis Without Borders for Drought Relief. “We don’t want to have anything to do with al-Shabab. We just wish they would go away.”

After the Minnesota women were arrested, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota came up with tips for charitable giving. Spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney said there is no safe list of nonprofits that are free of terror ties, but the Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains a list of groups that are designated as terror organizations. While that list is not all-inclusive, Cooney said, “We urge people to peruse that list before they give or make contributions.”

She said the government doesn’t recommend one group over another, but there are some, such as ARC, that have been carefully scrutinized and seen as ethical. Still, it’s up to the donor to make sure a group is legitimate.

Wordsworth said ARC began working with the Somali community two years ago In April they announced a partnership called Neighbors for Nations, which gave Somalis a safe way to send humanitarian aid back home.

Now, he said, ARC and American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa have a joint team in Mogadishu that is providing food baskets and items like blankets to thousands who have flocked to the capital city for relief.

The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought, with 3.7 million in Somalia among the worst-hit because of civil war there. Somalia’s prolonged drought devolved into famine in part because neither the Somali government nor many aid agencies can fully operate in areas controlled by al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

The U.N. has said it will airlift emergency rations later this week in an effort to try and reach at least 175,000 of the 2.2 million Somalis who have not been helped yet.

The diaspora in Minnesota is doing what it can. Sade Hashi simply threw open the event center of his Safari Restaurant for free to anyone who wanted to meet about the drought. Hashi said it was the least he could do: He remembers fleeing Somalia due to the civil war and waiting in line for water.

“Now that we live here, we don’t forget that,” he said. “We are trying to save a life.”

Farah’s Facebook page, which lists organizations where people can donate funds, has followers across the globe. She supports groups that have workers on the ground outside Mogadishu, because she says access to aid is key. She has been promoting Amoud Foundation, a Texas-based group that is setting up feeding centers around Somalia.

The group has raised roughly $94,000 in less than two weeks from the Twin Cities alone. They have received additional pledges for donations from Memphis, Tenn., Chicago, the Washington D.C. area and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said Mohamoud Egal, president of the Amoud Foundation.

The group focuses on health care, education and helping displaced women and children in Somalia. Egal said group members had planned to come to Minnesota to tap the diaspora for funds for its work — but instead is focused on famine relief.

“Right now our mission is to save their lives,” Egal said.

The group has set up collection sites at area mosques and a Somali mall. Some of the money collected went to emergency food and water, with the rest going toward the feeding centers, where suffering can go get nourishment.

Mohamed Idris, executive director of ARAHA, said his team in Mogadishu is seeing more people in need of help each day.

“The situation is very critical,” he said. “We need to act swiftly to ensure these people get the aid they need.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (30)
  1. Sam I am says:

    2 points. 1 if they can raise that much money for Somali then why on earth are the majority of them collecting welfare and 2. If they are that concerned maybe they should just move back there since they are not interested in becoming Americans. Meaning English, paying, taxes and not forcing your religion or customs on the rest of us.

    1. Ted says:

      1. The majority of Somalians are not collecting welfare. Why do you say such things? 2. They live here, many speak English well, they pay taxes and they do NOT force their religion or customs on the rest of us. What world do you live in Sam I am? Your posts are offensive.

      1. Les Johnson says:

        Somalian High Schoolers in Mpls wash their feet in the hand washing facilities and force the faculty to allow them to do so because of their “religion.”

        1. Guy says:

          And cabbies at the airport tried to block liquor & seeing-eye dogs.

    2. Humanity says:


      Where are you getting your facts? Most of the funds to help these unfortunate people inflicted with famine and natural disasters are federally allocated.

      I hope in your lifetime you never have to face what these people are facing. I say that with compassion knowing you couldn’t handle the adversity.

      1. Taxpayers says:

        Unless those “federally allocated” funds were from the federal government of Somalia, they are on US welfare.

        The US has done more than enough helping to last us a lifetime and its left us broke. Time to cut the cord

    3. Fadumo says:

      You’re ignorant.

  2. Ted says:

    “The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought, with 3.7 million in Somalia among the worst-hit because of civil war there.”

    This is really a tragic event – I hope the US and its people can help.

    1. Taxpayers says:

      Not interested!

      1. Max says:

        And I bet you consider yourself a good Christian….what hypocrisy!

        1. Taxpayers says:

          Its not the US taxpayers responsibility, if you want your church to help these people with private money than go talk to them

          1. Ted says:

            Taxpayer – you are not the only taxpayer. Many taxpayers will help and wish they would. I understand your reasons why you wish to have zero tax money to go toward helping yet you need to understand that there are many more who wish to use their tax money for things such as this gladly. How does this country satisfy both?

        2. Del says:

          And you bash Christianity at every turn without cause. Shame on you.

          1. The Outdoorsman says:

            The fact that it’s a sham, could be a potential reason people do that.

    2. Guy says:

      Yep – help save them over there … so they can come over here … get on welfare … have 20 kids … demand that WE accomodate their crummy “culture” and when we don’t; they’ll start bombing US.

  3. me says:

    I don’t want to donate a darn thing. I never have, I never will.

    And Al Shabob was already threatening to block all incoming aid from the UN.

    I’d be more than happy for you to go!

  4. Max says:

    And 100 plus years ago, many Americans wished all those Swedish, Norwegian, German etc immigrants would go “back home” too. How sad that some of the descendants of those reviled immigrants express similar sentiments about today’s refuge immigrants.

    1. Unbelievable! says:

      Its this type of whiny, liberal, do-gooder, false thinking that is going to lead to the death of this nation.

      Just say’in

    2. Today is different from yesterday. says:

      Those Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, etc. ASSIMILATED into the United States. They embraced their new country, honored their family’s traditions, but were happy and anxious to learn English, adopt America as their new “home country,” and embrace the American culture.

      They DID NOT demand prayer time or facilities from their employers, they DID NOT expect special treatment, and they DID NOT drain the welfare system – they EARNED their place in American society.

      “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, people, you’re in America. Get assimilated here or leave and don’t ever come back.

      1. Enough is enough says:

        Very well said.

      2. Ted says:

        What does this have to do with helping to prevent the starvation of millions? What do you contribute with this remark? What is your purpose?

        You may be sincere in your remarks, yet I do not accept what you are saying is true. Many who came to this country have had many difficulties. It is not just these people. It is not the first time in our history. Sorry, but your remarks are so untrue it is unfair as well.

        1. You don't play well in the sandbox of life so leave the playground. says:

          Untrue? Unfair? Okay, you’re not assimilating. Please leave. Quickly. We have no sympathy for you or your kind. Go where you are welcomed. Oh wait, who would welcome you? Nobody. So just go home and make the best of it. I’ll send you a Christmas card.

      3. rahman says:

        You know of no thing of our truble hear we come hear with no thingCant have real famiy becuse plicemens say women like man cant hurt even if not obay try your way life not good for man.

        1. Go walk the plank. says:

          You’re right. Our way of life is not good for you. You need to go back home and hone up your pirating skills. Can you say aye, aye matey?

  5. jan says:

    It’s a tragedy and I feel sorry for those people. What I don’t understand is when there’s famine and drought that they decide to have babies. Pack some birth control pills in with the aid. Increase and multiply doesn’t apply here. Where is the common sense? People should act responsibly

    1. Ted says:

      Many people express how such a thing can be prevented while such a thing is going on. That is good, but better yet, right now “today” they need help. So much of this is because of war and that is sad, nevertheless, that should not prevent us from helping. This country has always stepped in when there was a tragic disaster such as this. Few people complained about it. many helped. The real tragity is that there are a vast minortiy in this country who would not and never will offer a helping hand for anybody for any reason because they feel they don’t want to pay for it, because it is not their color of skin or their religion, they would not help for so many uncivil reasons… and they make a lot of noise so that the reat of us are hindered to help because of these foolish selfish biggoted fools. That is the real tragity in this country.

      1. The Outdoorsman says:

        “This country has always stepped in when there was a tragic disaster such as this.”

        FALSE. We pick and choose who to help and when.

  6. Dee says:

    No one every said you had to give them your money or any of your time. But your disparaging comments, vile and discriminatory comments and remarks and your lack of humanity make me ashamed for all of you. God forbid that war, famine and homelessness should ever become rampant in this country, for I think you would all turn on each other like a pack of merciless piranhas. You should all be very ashamed of yourself. Your comments reveal so much about your very selfish personalities.

    1. The Outdoorsman says:

      And when it does, I’m sure the Somalians will be first in line to help….