ON a visit to Somalia in 2008, Mohamed Ahmed was struck by what he saw:
People with mental health issues staggering down the street, ignored by passersby; children whose bony limbs poked from beneath rags and oversized clothing; beggars with vacant eyes; and hundreds of others afflicted by war, disease and natural disasters.
“I’ve seen so many things – all of these people had nothing,” says Ahmed, who moved to Canada from Somalia 15 years ago. “No food, no water, no shelter.”
The experience prompted Ahmed, a graduate of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s electrical program, to found the DEEQ African Foundation Society (DAFS), which collects clothes, shoes and small pieces of luggage from Lower Mainland residents and distributes them in Somalia.
Initially when he established DAFS as a charity in July, Ahmed was responding to calls and picking up all the donations himself. As the charity grew, however, Ahmed couldn’t keep up with demand and needed a more efficient way to collect and store the clothing, shoes and bags.
“When I was in the electrical program at KPU, the carpentry students were just down the hall and I knew they would be able to build something for the foundation,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed turned to the teachers and students at the KPU trades and technology campus in Cloverdale, who agreed to build several large charity drop boxes to help some of Africa’s poorest citizens. The boxes will be placed outside shopping malls, schools, mosques and churches in Surrey and Richmond.
“Any real-life experience with the tools is beneficial to the students, and the fact that we’re contributing to a humanitarian effort at the same time is an even bigger bonus,” says carpentry instructor Alan Rumpel.
The society expects to make its first shipment of donated items to Somalia by the end of the year.
Ahmed and other members of B.C.’s Somali community will share their experiences and insight about the struggles of Somalis both in Canada and Somalia at an upcoming community forum, Pathway to Empowerment, at KPU’s Surrey campus, 12666 72nd Avenue, on Saturday, November 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The forum is sponsored by the Somali Community of B.C., KPU and Mosaic. The public is welcome.
For more information on DAFS, visit www.africandaddy.org.