By Laurent F. Gilbert Sr.
Mayor of Lewiston
On August 11, as I entered the Lost Valley Ski Area building to attend the monthly Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, I spoke with Dr. Abdifatah Ahmed, executive director of Atlantic Global Aid, and Mr. Hussein Ahmed, owner of the Barwaqo Halal Store at the corner of Lisbon and Chestnut Streets, where Dube Travel used to be located.
Chip Morrison, president of The Chamber, provided them with a spotlight location at the entrance where the breakfast was being held. They displayed photos of Somali children and families suffering from the drought and famine in Somalia and who were now in overflowing refugee camps in Kenya. They also provided pamphlets that explain the mission of Atlantic Global Aid (AGA), which is supporting a health care lifeline to Africa.
The pledge of Atlantic Global Aid, located right here in Auburn, is to “collaborate with state and local governments, civic nonprofit and international non-governmental organizations to improve the lives of the poor, help teach the youth to prepare for future leadership roles, and save children from the ravages of famine and drought.” The L-A outreach is to get medical supplies and nutritional supplements to Somalia and Kenya.
At the breakfast, Morrison introduced them to the attendees. After the breakfast, both Ahmeds asked to meet with me. This past week, we held our second meeting at Lewiston City Hall. Those in attendance were Dr. Adifatah Ahmed, a pharmacist who runs the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Topsham, owns a five-unit apartment building on upper Pine Street near St. Mary’s Hospital and serves on the board of directors of St. Mary’s Hospital; Mr. Hussein Ahmed, owner of the Barwaqo Halal Store; and Professor Ali Aden Mohamed, owner of the Gateway Tutor Academy, doing business as Aden Relief Services at 145 Lisbon St.
Also attending was Leslie Manning, vice-president of the Maine Council of Churches, and Fowsia Muse and Hinda Abukar, both from the United Somali Women of Maine organization, which is located above Ahmed’s Halal Store.
At the meeting Dr. Ahmed, as executive director of AGA, explained that they had formed a partnership with Partners for World Health (www.partnersforworldhealth.org), which is based in Portland, Maine. PWH is staffed with volunteer doctors, nurses and others who travel to Kenya to work in refugee camps.
PWH’s president is Elizabeth McLellan of Portland, and their office and distribution center is at 7 Glasgow Road, Scarborough, Maine 04074. Both are tax-exempt organizations. Their joint activities are as follows:
Raise funds and sponsor programs that promote improved health care and education in Africa;
Find, store and ship appropriate medical equipment and useful and effective medical supplies to Africa;
Collaborate on organizing and managing at least one medical mission per year with trained health care, disaster relief and support personnel and volunteers;
Undertake joint fundraising to store and ship appropriate supplies and technology in order to improve health care systems;
Support the Youth Health Center in Masalani Hospital in Kenya with medical supplies, medical technology, capacity building expertise and medical knowledge; and
Introduce each other to important partners who can help AGA and PWH train health care workers and volunteers in Africa.
ZamZam Mohamud, a local Certified Nurses Aid working at Central Maine Medical Center with a group working with her, have already raised funds with a car wash last weekend. Their effort paid good dividends.
At the meeting, it was decided that we would hold a press conference on Tuesday, August 30 to inform the public about needed aid for people in Somalia and Kenya. The fact that 29,000 children have died as a result of the drought and famine within a 90-day period in Somalia and Kenya cannot be ignored.
As I am writing this in the midst of Hurricane Irene on Sunday afternoon, and the press conference will have already occurred. Those who were confirmed to speak along with me included the two Ahmeds above, Prof. Ali Aden Mohamed, Elizabeth Mclellan, Jean Kahn, who is a Certified Nurse Midwife at St. Mary’s Hospital, and Jim Lysen, AICP and AGA Board Member.
Chip Morrison had been invited to speak. Representatives of Congressman Michael Michaud, Senators Collins and Snowe were planning to attend.
In the press release, Dr. Ahmed stated: “Our vision is to help foster a healthier life for people in selected areas of both urban and rural Africa who are suffering from the negative effects of malaria, tuberculosis, pre-natal vitamin and mineral deficiencies and complications due to dirty water and lack of proper hygiene.”
The press release drafted by Dottie Perham-Whittier of the City of Lewiston’s Executive Department states: “The United Nations has declared a famine in regions of Somalia that are facing the worse drought in six decades, and an estimated 9 million people from the East Horn of Africa are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Ahmed notes that some Somali Americans have families and relatives back home, so what is occurring is ‘very crucial to us’.”
I’m not in a habit of writing my column to raise funds for any organization; however, with the severity of this life-killing drought in a war-torn area of the world, I felt the need to write and share with you how we all can help improve the situation these poor people are enduring.
As Dr. Ahmed mentioned, our Somali neighbors right here in Lewiston-Auburn have relatives and friends who have been victims of this drought or are currently victimized by it. As good neighbors we should feel a sense of compassion for those so much less fortunate than ourselves.
In his book entitled “Healing Racism in America, A Prescription for the Disease,” Nathan Rutstein alludes to a book written by Guy Murchie, a noted science writer who wrote the book “The Seven Mysteries of Life.” He explains what makes the family of man a reality. Murchie writes “No human being (of any race) can be less closely related to any other human than approximately fiftieth cousin, and most of us (no matter what color or neighbors) are a lot closer. Indeed this low magnitude for the lineal compass of mankind is accepted by the leading geneticists.”
Those of us who are God-fearing do believe that we are all God’s children; thusly we are all related in His eyes. It is time for all of us in some way to help our relatives and neighbors in distress. How will we answer on that day of final judgment when the Almighty says, “I sent my children among you and how did you respond?” Each and every one of us is the only one who can answer that question.
If you feel the desire to be of help, you may make a donation to Atlantic Global Aid. You may donate online at www.atlanticglobal.org or by making checks payable to AGA and mailing it to AGA, P.O. Box 618, Auburn, ME 04212. I have sent my check; won’t you send yours?
AGA has received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. All donations, whether in-kind or financial, are fully tax-deductible.
See Mayor Gilbert’s personal blog at www.MayorLarryGilbert.com.