Christmas appeal

I want to tell you a story.

 

Imagine you are 5 years old. You live in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

 

Somalia is plagued by fierce fighting. Tonight it is worse than usual.

 

It’s 3:15 am and it’s getting closer. And closer.

 

What do you do?

 

You wake up and see people lying in the street. You wonder why they are sleeping there. Your parents struggle to explain to you, as a young child, that they will never wake up.

So tonight you have no choice but to leave, fleeing from the bullets and violence. You are gathered up in your parents’ arms, and with your brother, sisters and other members of your family, you flee for your lives.

You leave behind your friends and everything you know and run – terrified – into an unknown future.

You arrive, still all together, in a new city called Kismayo on the southeast coast. You are a refugee in your own country. But you are one of the lucky ones.

 

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A Somali girl walks down a road at sunset in an IDP camp near the town of Jowhar on December 14. Fighting between clans has displaced more than twelve thousand people near the town of Jowhar, Somalia. Many have sought temporary shelter near an African Union military camp in the area, who are currently providing security for the IDPs. AU UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones.
Photo: AU UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones

You are now 10 years old. You still live in Kismayo with your family. You even manage to attend primary school, learning to read, write and count.

 

But violent attacks are still a part of daily life. Tensions between different communities spark into deadly violence.

 

Your father is killed.

 

What do you do?

 

A young boy, dressed up for Eid el-Fitr, sits near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 6, 2016. AMISOM Photo / Tobin Jones
Photo: AMISOM Photo / Tobin Jones

You have to drop out of school. Your mother cannot afford to feed the family, let alone pay for school fees.

It’s been ten years and still the violence continues. You are now 20. Kismayo looks like paradise if you ignore the shattered buildings. But the sea is controlled by pirates and the roads are now controlled by terrorists – the militant organisation al-Shabaab who use violence and terror to exert brutal control.

Your family have no money. Your mother does everything she can to find food. She collects firewood, lugging it on her back to sell at the local market. It is not enough to pay for food and clothes for you and your brother and sisters.

As the oldest child, you try to help. You begin to work on the sea port welcoming arriving boats. The work is intermittent. There are monsoons and boats stop arriving. You are jobless, and your whole family suffers.

You are desparate for just one chance to escape these conditions.

It seems you have only two options: joining militant group al-Shabaab who offer food, money and shelter, or attempting the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.

 

What do you do?

 

This is not just a story. This is Abshir’s life.

 

Once one of Mogadishu's most luxurious hotels, the Al-Uruba lays in ruins after two decades of civil war. Though building work in Mogadishu is on the rise, it may still be several years before many of the city's buildings will be restored. AU-UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.
AU-UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.

Meet Abshir.

He is now 26 years old, and a recent graduate of a six month training course run by our local partner, SADO, in Kismayo.

Last year, your support helped pull him back from the brink of desperation.

Abshir heard about our local project training young people to become mechanics, electricians and plumbers. He rushed to find a way to join. Because of this, he did not have to flee or join al-Shabaab.

Abshir says:

“After joining this project, a striking change happened in my life. I was able to bring $60 a month back to my family. I gained the skills and knowledge to give myself another option. Startup grant money enabled me to earn a living, manage my family needs and allow my mother to rest.

If I hadn’t had this opportunity I would be in a deeply difficult situation. 

My future now feels different. I want to increase my skills as an electrician until I become an engineer. I wish this project could be expanded throughout the region.”

Violence, death and recruitment by al-Shabaab is still an everyday reality for young people in Somalia. We must give them another option.

 

We can give them another option.

 

Yes I want to support young people like Abshir now

It costs $149 to give Abshir six months’ training. But the impact can last a lifetime. Will you donate $10 and continue on this journey with us?

The training goes beyond learning a trade and a start-up grant. The young people also learn business skills, literacy and numeracy, so they can run and grow their businesses.

Crucially, throughout the training they are given at least one hot meal per day and their bus fare to get to training – small things which have a huge impact on completing the training.

I want to help

First photo: AU-UN IST PHOTO/STUART PRICE

Photos representative.