Neighbors for Nations forms to help Somalia

Share this:
April 11, 2011 // UPDATED 2:59 pm - April 14, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
Minneapolis is home to the nation’s largest Somali community, and for a generation Somali Americans have been sending money back to their home country to deal with the nation’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Despite the millions of dollars raised by Minnesota Somalis for Somalia, their efforts have been hampered by a lack of organization and strategy. A new Minneapolis-based organization aims to change that.

Neighbors for Nations is a joint effort between the Minnesota Somali community and the American Refugee Committee, with backing from United Way, UCare and the City of Minneapolis. The goal of the program is to partner the fundraising efforts of the Somali community with the organizational, operational and technical expertise of the ARC.

Neighbors for Nations has been in the works for about 18 months, and was initiated by the Minneapolis Somali community reaching out to the ARC. The two groups agreed to work together in partnership, with headquarters in both Minneapolis and Somalia. The dual locations reflects the organization’s goal to help Somalis both here and in Somalia – by helping Minnesota Somalis prosper, they will have more resources to contribute to their home country.

Amongst the first projects Neighbors for Nations will undertake are a youth center in Somalia, a fund for Somali entrepreneurs, crisis care and a scholarship program. A fundraising effort called “1,000 Giving 1,000” has also been launched, which seeks to find 1,000 volunteers to pledge $1,000 to the organization. Thirty-five members of the Minneapolis Somali community have already committed to the effort, as has Mayor R.T. Ryback.

The organization was announced yesterday at a pair of events at the Karmel Somali Mall and Minneapolis City Hall. Around 300 people turned out for the larger event at City Hall, roughly half of which were of Somali descent. Several speakers took the podium to explain the partnership, including two representatives of the Internationally Displaced Somali Advisory Council and the heads of ARC, UCare and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. Mayor Ryback closed the show with a speech about the interconnectedness between Minneapolis and Somalia. Discussing how the actions in one place affect people in the other, he earned the evening’s biggest round of applause when he declared “This is your home and Somalia is my home. Somalia’s challenges are Minneapolis’ challenges.”