Sumaya Abdi: The Rajo Foundation

Mentioned earlier in a separate article, we spoke to Sumaya Abdi about her recent acquiring of the local business, Suds. Within our interview, we learned that Miss Abdi also runs a nonprofit organisation, Rajo Foundation. When asked for a translation of what Rajo might mean, Miss Abdi stated that it meant one thing: hope. Miss Abdi went on to state that she wished to clarify that, “While there is conflict plaguing the country, there is still beauty that can be found in different ways. I would like for the readers to be aware of that. All too often it seems as though we are portrayed as sad beings, as having no hope in our lives, no joy. While aid is always lovely, we are more than what is seen upon the television at the holidays where you see a celebrity asking for donations to help these poor souls. We are stronger than that, and the country is strong as well, and beautiful. So, while there is a war, while there will surely be hard times, we find ways to be happy, to be thankful.”

Asked about why she created Rajo Foundation, Miss Abdi responded by explaining that she herself ended up as a victim of the same war. Forced to flee Somalia, she ended up as a refugee in a European country, remaining there for a handful of years with her family. Then, as she stated, “There was something pulling me back to my country, to return to Somalia. I had to go back and help, however possible.”

Curious about just what Rajo Foundation does, we asked and Miss Abdi answered, “We help those that have become victims of a brutal civil war that still goes on. While the world turns to other news, rape is still taking place, the slaughter of innocent people is still taking place. War is a terrible thing, it cares not how old a person is or how young, it does not care who you are. War simply takes. And yet, there are ways that help can still be given. I returned to start the foundation and from there, we assist anyone that needs help. It is a lovely country but yet, women and girls are often times considered lesser beings. We are treated differently, and I wish to change that. Therefore, we do things differently. We go against the norms of society so to say.”

When asked to share a particular case that might resonate with our readers, Miss Abdi told the story of a fifteen year old girl named Hani, “She came to us from a more remote village after being forced into an arranged marriage where she had to accept a man that was nearing the age of forty as her husband. When I first met her, she was shy, very quiet. It took a couple of visits before she would open up to me. This was a girl like any other girl that you might come across truly. She has hopes, dreams, she has goals that she wishes to reach and exceed even. However, her education had been halted after she had gotten married and therefore, there was very little chance of her ever being able to do all of what she dreamed of. Along with that, there was the fact that she had never been provided medical care that should be provided to women that are pregnant. In these cases, it takes some time before we are finally able to help the mother and get her somewhere safe. When Hani was finally brought to one of the locations that the foundation has, she received the necessary medical care, for both physical and mental health. There is a process that we have with the doctors that we work with when these situations arise, the process goes at the pace that the person wants, no faster, no slower. We might guide from time to time but mostly, we allow the person to make their own choices, we let them know that their voice is heard and that we respect them.”

Miss Abdi continued on to tell us the good news that came about after her foundation was able to aid the girl, “With the help of the foundation, Hani was able to resume her education with the help of another foundation that my own works closely with at times. When it came time for her baby to be born, we were there for her the entire way and when she announced that she wished to keep the child, we helped her with that as well. Now, I can proudly say that Hani and Kadir are doing wonderful. Hani has been able to continue her education and recently she told me that she wants to earn a degree in fashion one day, which we will help her to reach.”

We then asked her what would have happened if not for the foundation helping Hani, Miss Abdi responded by saying, “If not for the foundation, she might not even be alive. All too often, in child marriages, there is a great deal of violence towards the girl. If she was to become pregnant like Hani did, there is a greater chance of her dying during childbirth. We are trying to end child marriages, the government is making steps in the proper direction but not quickly enough. This could happen very easily within America, within other countries. It might not be from child marriage but if a girl at this age becomes pregnant, she might not receive the proper health care that she should be getting. Her goals might never be reached. With the foundation’s help, we have seen many girls like Hani go on to greater futures than they ever thought they would have a chance at having.”

As we know some readers might be wondering, why would Miss Abdi return to a country still at war, her answer was clear, “I felt the calling to do something, and if need be, I would give my life to allow another to life. When you realize what others are experiencing, that their story is very similar to your own, you cannot ignore the call within your heart. I will never stop going into those warzones to help others, someone has to, I will be that someone.”

Finally, as we wrapped up the interview, we asked Miss Abdi just how readers could help the Rajo Foundation if they wished to, “We are taking donations, we always are in fact. People often ask how they can help the foundation and I tend to give a few different ways that they can help. Some that feel the call to help, they do travel to Somalia to assist with the foundation from its base within Mogadishu. Those that are not feeling up for such a big change within their lives, they can donate if they go to a website that has been set up for the foundation. There are also links upon the website that provide the reader with more information into the ways that we help the communities. That brings up another way that people could help as well. That is something that I always suggest to a person who wishes to help, no matter how they wish to help. We need people to read, to listen, to learn. To be more aware.”

-Amber Greene and Caspian Douglas