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Student group runs for Somali famine

Ayan Sheikh / Multimedia editor

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The Somali Student Association at Ohio State organized its first-ever 5k/one-mile run Sunday on the Oval in an effort to raise money for the victims of the famine in Somalia.

Project Run for Life: Horn of Africa, was developed over the summer by SSA board members and OSU Undergraduate Student Government senate member Bilal Bajwa.

Since then, Run for Life has raised $11,000 in donations from various businesses across Columbus, sponsorships from USG, student organizations and from several OSU departments, according to Zakaria Farah, SSA treasurer and a second-year in environmental engineering

All proceeds from the event will be presented to Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a non-profit organization based in Detroit, Mich., which provides humanitarian aid in emergency situations, according to its website.

SSA president and third-year international relations and diplomacy major, Simona Noor said Helping Hand was the perfect choice given that members from Helping Hand are on the ground in Somalia and in neighboring refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

“We wanted (Helping Hand) because they were on site. We could’ve sent it to the U.N., we could’ve sent it to all these other organizations, but we thought this was the best choice for us for now,” Noor said.

The United Nations agricultural agency said in a press release in September that famine conditions had spread to a sixth area in Somalia, putting approximately 750,000 people in the country at risk of starvation this year.

Despite the overwhelming humanitarian response to the drought and famine crisis in the Horn of Africa, the demand for food and health relief remains high, according to the U.N.

Farah said the purpose of the fundraiser was not only to raise money, but to also help spread awareness around campus of the ongoing issues in Somalia.

“We wanted our project, our 5K and our experience to get others motivated to do something and be aware of what’s going on in the world,” Farah said.

Approximately 200 participants gathered at the Oval and each was given the option to either run the 5K or walk a mile.

Both groups took different routes. Those that opted for the 5K started at the Oval then went past the Ohio Stadium, over to Lane Avenue and all the way to River Watch tower before heading back to the Oval.

Participants that opted for the one-mile, walked to 17th Avenue and then headed back to the Oval.

Bajwa said hosting the event at the Oval was no easy task.

“The main reason we fought to have it in the Oval (is) because of the idea we’re promoting here, (which is) OSU is giving back to the community,” he said.

Ryan Terek, a third-year in accounting, expressed his outlook on the event and the cause at hand.

“It’s always good to give back, especially when it’s such a drastic cause,” he said. “This is a prevalent issue but not a lot of people organize runs. Maybe it’s because it’s Africa and people don’t know how to give back to something like this.”

Noor said that as the president of SSA and as a Somali, she felt it was her job to give back to the people of Somalia.

“My focus in life is to help people out,” she said, “I want the people (of Somalia) to know even if you’re suffering, there is someone else in the world that cares about you and thinks about you and wants to help you out.”

SSA plans on making Run for Life an annual event, but the focus of the event would change. Instead of SSA deciding on a cause, OSU students will get to vote on the cause and the location of the run, according to Farah.

SSA will also be hosting a banquet Nov. 21 at the Performance Hall, located in the Ohio Union. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased by visiting projectrunforlife.org.

In an earlier version of this story, The Lantern referred to OSU Undergraduate Student Government senate member Bilal Bajwa as a she. In fact, Bajwa is a male. 

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