Students link up across the diaspora to fight famine

The Somali Youth League of San Diego was formed in an effort to fight the famine that has plagued most of southern Somalia. In less than two-and-a-half weeks the youth league raised US$30,000 to alleviate famine that has claimed the lives of 30,000 children in less than three months.

The Somali Youth League, or SYL, comprises more than 70 college students and young professionals and is reminiscent of the original youth league of the 1940s that liberated Somalia from its period of colonisation.

The SYL of San Diego seeks to galvanise and mobilise youth in Somalia to collaborate and partner with Somali youth in the diaspora in a movement to rebuild the country.

Currently, the SYL is moving beyond the humanitarian relief work that it has been doing and is creating sustainable mentorship programmes for first-generation Somali youth in the US. Most, if not all, league members are the first to graduate or attend college in their families, so opening up the pathways to higher education is something SYL members feel obliged to do.

As chair of the SYL and a panellist for the Clinton Global University Initiative, I was fortunate enough to witness the formation of the partnerships SYL has built locally and globally.

Students conduct a major survey
A few days earlier, I was in Somalia on behalf of the University of California – San Diego and the SYL, conducting the first large-scale representative survey in Mogadishu since 1987.

The survey, which covered all 16 districts in Mogadishu, assessed humanitarian issues, security, access to water, education and health care.

The people who carried out the survey were none other than higher education students in Mogadishu, part of a group called SUHA, which is working with SYL on the research. This academic collaboration is hopefully one brick in a solid foundation of joint action to rebuild Somalia.

SUHA has been doing amazing work in the midst of anarchy and violence, creating rehabilitation programmes for child soldiers and after-school programmes for drop-outs in the most extreme and dangerous situations.

Movement for change
The survey and collaboration encourages hope for Somalia that change is around the corner.

That movement for change is reflected on a global basis in the electric atmosphere at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and the commitments made by students to make this world a better place.

The fifth annual CGI U meeting was held from 30 March 30 to 1 April in Washington DC, at George Washington University. The 2012 meeting brought together more than 1,000 students from all over the world, along with leaders from business, non-profit organisations and government, as well as celebrities engaged in efforts to create positive change.

As a panellist I was intrigued by the passion of students to become global change activists. As an activist I was impressed by the notion that attendees of CGI U were going beyond talking the talk and were ready to walk the walk.

As a student myself, I was delighted by the opportunity to be in the presence of global citizens ready to apply their skills beyond the borders of their textbooks and into the real world where they want to make a real change.

* Abdimalik Buul is chair of the Somali Youth League.