19 years ago as a young teenager interested in helping Somalia, I came across a group of older men who came to Al-Huda mosque in Minneapolis in 2001 and they where presenting a PowerPoint presentation. They struggled to operate a projector at the time, needed some help. I was skilled with AV tech stuff so I came to helped them fix the problem, which was easy for me! This led me to learn more about this group of people and an organization with a long title the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) was doing. After the presentation and fundraising, they thanked me then offered me to help count the money that night. They could see my deep appreciation for the work they were doing and asked me to join and help more.
20 years later my life has been transformed and enriched by ARAHA. I have been part of a small but growing team of staff, board volunteers that have made ARAHA of the leading and most successful relief organizations in the US focusing on East Africa. Millions of people have benefited from ARAHA and the people of ARAHA mostly its generous donors. I have had the great opportunity to travel to the Horn and see first hand for my self the impact. I have spoken to my peers and community here and across America telling the story of ARAHA to all those that could hear.
Full Interview Transcript
I cannot believe it’s been 20 years, first of all. ARAHA 20 years ago for me was an alignment between I guess what most immigrant families or younger generation think about– They think about how can I help the place that I escaped That so many people that you know are still struggling with.
I know that most of the people who came from Somalia-for example, where I came from; that only you know a small percentage of maybe even one percent or even less than one percent actually is here has the privilege of being in America. And so as a young kid growing up in Minnesota with my family, I was instilled in this idea of helping others. And that’s something that I think both of my parents instilled in me–and obviously through my faith and through the teachings of our prophet.
So it’s interesting how I eventually connected to ARAHA…ARAHA at the time was a brand new organization; I was at Masjid (mosque) Al-Huda in Minneapolis and this was Ramadan–At the time I was just starting College. At the College, I was helping out as a work-study job. I was an AV Tech, so I was at the Masjid and here comes at the time I think brother Mohamed and sheikh Omar and I don’t remember anyone else ( I think brother Adam). they come to the Masjid they have this projector, they have a screen and they’re presenting. And it’s a very short time in Ramadan when people can do that, very limited, maybe 10 minutes or less sometimes and they’re struggling as the projector is not working and they’re trying everything figuring out which cable and I really feel bad for them and at the time you know, I knew a little bit about how to do A V. So I said “I can help” I got up there And started to figure out; quickly fixed it. They’re up there. They showed the video, and I think it slides PowerPoint slides you know and you know and at the time I didn’t think of anything. I just help them get their projector, but the Organization spoke to me; but it wasn’t that.
It was also the way the board at the time and these brothers also reached back so I help them and then they’re like “are you interested in helping us tonight? We still need people to help count this money” And I help them count the money help a few more things. and I found myself that ARAHA wasn’t so distant.
If I was willing to do something then here’s an opportunity and… at that time was such a you know the beginning stages. The entire organization was run by volunteers Since then I’ve I have been part of this Organization. I would say that I don’t know what I would be without this Organization.
I think everything that I do today. the way I carry myself the skills that I’ve learned and the ability to feel that there’s a lot of possibilities in difficulties, in places, or ideas. When you go from starting, you know, brand new organization To getting it to where ARAHA is today and seeing the amount of hard work that has been taken over years to develop It’s is really remarkable. So that’s how I got introduced to ARAHA.
Since then I’ve been on the board. I’ve traveled to the region many many times. and every time I travel–Every time I get more engaged. I become even more closer to the work and I think that’s true to anyone who volunteers you know. I would say the people who inspire me the most are even our donors.
The more even if (one) donor shows up to one of these refugee camps or sees one recipient. They probably will donate three times more. because they’ll see not only the work but they will touch the impact. They’ll see how big of an impact ARAHA has on people’s daily lives.
And so as the Organization grew, And today I would have to say that I’m proud of the work of ARAHA And I’m proud of the ability and the progress this organization has made. I think for many people who wanna know what how this organization started. It really started with people with big hearts, big ideas, little resources. but knew that there are a lot of people, who if they heard the message. They would also be able to respond.
I hope my story inspires you to take the journey with ARAHA as a volunteer, a donor and more in the next 20 years and beyond.