LEWISTON — The public is invited to a meal featuring African and American food tonight at a fundraiser to benefit famine victims in Somalia.
The supper begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Multi-Purpose Community Center on Birch Street. Individual tickets cost $20, $50 or $100, depending on the amount a person wants to contribute. The event will include a slide show of famine conditions in Somalia and Kenya.
Organizer Abdifatah Ahmed, a pharmacist who lives in Auburn, said the food will be tasty.
“We have people cooking really good food, traditional African food,” he said. Local restaurants will donate American food, he said.
African dishes will feature rice, chicken and vegetables. The popular samosa, which is similar to a burrito, features “really good stuff, beef and vegetables, onions and spice,” Ahmed said.
Another food will be the traditional Ethiopian injera, a large, bread-like wrap that holds beef, sauce and hot spices. The food will be prepared by "professional people who cook," Ahmed said.
He said an army of volunteers, including students from Bates College and the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn College, will set up and serve. Local dignitaries, including Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, will attend.
The dinner is one of several events that Ahmed's nonprofit group, Atlantic Global Aid, is sponsoring to help people "back home.”
Atlantic Global Aid was formed last year to deliver medicine, medical personnel, volunteers and supplies to Somalia. The group works with a hospital in Kenya, Partners for World Health in Scarborough, Maine, WomanKind school in Kenya, and Benadir University in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.
Ahmed is the executive director of Atlantic Global Aid. He holds a PhD in pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He fled Somalia in 1991 at age 14 when the civil war broke out. He moved to Boston to live with his uncle.
He's been back to Somalia, delivering food and medical supplies. Atlantic Global Aid's immediate goal is to raise $15,000 to $20,000 and return to Somalia in December with food, supplies and volunteers.
Asked how the group would deliver aid without being robbed, Ahmed said he'd done his homework.
“You need to do a lot of good work on the ground, get the right people," he said. "We have a team going with us from Maine with the supplies.”
They plan to go to the Somalia border at Kenya and proceed to Mogadishu. His group has worked with embassy officials and the Kenyan government. Those officials and Global Aid's people over there have recommended who to work with, he said.
What Ahmed and others have seen there is heartbreaking, he said.
The worst drought in decades has made the conditions in war-torn Somalia go from bad to worse. Crops and farm animals have died, leaving no food. Parents walking to overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya have left children who died on the way by the road, hoping someone would bury them, Ahmed said. “There's a lot of sad stories.”
Most of the dying are children, he said, adding that his group wants to help with supplies and hope.
“A lot of people in Lewiston-Auburn have family members back home,” he said. “As a good neighbor, you want to help when there's a crisis.”