Monday July 4, 2022
Minneapolis (HOL) - A group of young professionals are planning to ascend to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak, this week in honour of murdered Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh.
The hike is organized by Dega Nalayeh, Hodan's elder sister and a Managing Director with Bank of America Private Bank in Los Angeles, California.
Fifteen hikers - mostly Americans but also Canadians and a Brit - are planning to trek the top of the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world ( 19,341 ft) while raising $320,000 to benefit nomadic, pastoral and other out-of-school children in Somaliland.
The group has raised over $233,000 so far but hopes to reach its target goal once the remaining pledges come in.
The funds will go to the American-founded non-profit, Give to Learn to Grow Foundation, whose aim is to provide underserved communities with educational opportunities so they can pay it forward to their community. The charity operates two schools - the Ahmed Saeed Nalayeh School (Yellow School) and the Khadija Abdi Langadhe School (Blue and white School) - in Somaliland. It will be spent building computer labs for the two schools to bridge the digital gap and prepare students for the information age.
The computer labs will be named after Hodan Nalayeh.
Give to Learn to Grow hopes the computer labs can be functional by next year. They have already set up communication masts to connect the schools.
The Ahmed Saeed Nalayeh School was founded in March 2017 when pastoral nomads lost their livestock during the biting drought. The school is attended by 250 displaced nomadic children from the Gal-Barwaaqo in Somaliland and educates children from kindergarten to 6th grade.
In July 2019, the Khadija Abdi Langadhe School was opened to 320 children in Adhi-Caddeeye, Somaliland.
Both schools provide free elementary school education, stationery, uniforms and meals to students, which Deqa says is instrumental to their learning experience.
"Many children start school malnourished, and many more start the school day without breakfast. These meals are incredibly important to their brain function and alleviate some weight from their nomadic parents who are also struggling."
Photo: Dega Nalayeh (Supplied)
The effects of the drought have exasperated the displacement of nomadic communities in the region.
One of the school's aims is to design a hands-on and practical curriculum that educates students on the environment and agriculture.
The school's motto is "We hear, and we forget, we see, and we remember, we do, and we understand."
Dega Nalayeh said that the nomadic background of the children means they were not exposed to modern technology.
"We aim to provide a stimulating environment to help the child develop an excellent foundation for creative learning. It stimulates the sense of the brain and the understanding of its environment. Students in elementary science classes plant trees, watch them grow and then use them for shelter or food."
Community service is heavily emphasized in the curriculum. Families typically leave their children in the care of a relative while searching for resources, so the students live in temporary accommodations outside the school grounds.
The students are taught in English, but the curriculum has Somali and Arabic classes.
The educational program has proved that the students are eager to learn. Despite the harsh rural conditions that worsened with the drought, the school's attendance rate is 98%. The rare times the students to miss school are almost exclusively health-related.
Photo: Dega Nalayeh (Supplied)
Five of the fifteen hikers are Hodan Nalayeh's relatives, including three of her sisters - Dega, Barwaqo and Muna - and two nephews. The remaining dozen are from different ethnicities and walks of life.
The group has been training for the climb since early April. A handful of the participants who live in California have been meeting up every Saturday to hike. Each week they gradually moved up to more challenging treks and tested their endurance under adverse weather conditions.
Dega said that she and many of her friends and family have taken up hiking to exercise during the pandemic.
The group will begin their six-nights-and-seven-day trek to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on Saturday and complete the journey on July 15th.
Dega Nalayeh said that the computer lab would be part of Hodan's legacy and a continuance of her life's passion.
"We believe in her mission and life purpose to give back by making a difference in the world by educating as many Somali children as possible. As a family, we decided to continue the work she was passionate about, which was the community."
Donations are being accepted on the Gift to Grow foundation fundraiser page.