By Hassan M Abukar
When Lul “Araweelo” Kulmiye was a child, she had big dreams.
“I will work with a pen and notebook in my hand,” she recalled saying.
Recently, when she found herself standing in a Norwegian court interpreting for Somalis, she realized that her dream has become reality.
“Wow!” she gasped. “It never occurred to me before to connect my childhood aspirations with my current professional work.”
A certified nurse by training and experience, Lul has become more than a professional interpreter. She has worked as a community advocate, women’s rights activist, and human rights crusader.
Lul became a well-known Somali community activist and leader through a freak accident in 2005.
“I was working along with a Norwegian nursing student when I hurt my right hand,” she explained.
Initially, she didn’t feel any discomfort, but after a few hours, she felt an intense pain. She went to an emergency room and was told she had broken her hand and wouldn’t be working for two weeks.
“I was supposed to start a summer job when the accident happened,” she added ruefully.
Those two weeks of medical leave turned out to be anything but restful—they were the foundation of her community activism.
Several thousand miles away in Mogadishu, Somalia, a story was brewing about the plight of Halima Hirre, a 3-year-old girl from the Somali region in Ethiopia, who had a tumor in her genitalia. When Lul heard about Halima, she was heartbroken.
“I am a mother, a human being, and I wanted to help,” she said.
Lul began contacting various health organizations—the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and humanitarian groups—to help Halima, but to no avail.
Representatives of these organizations told Lul there was nothing they could do because they didn’t help individuals. In other words, she needed to be a nonprofit entity. Some staff members advised her to approach the media for help with her cause.
Thus Lul’s quest to save Halima began.
She wrote first to Dagsavisen, a Norwegian daily newspaper. Then, she approached Dayniile online magazine to advocate for Halima. Instead, she was interviewed by the magazine and she told Halima’s story. What happened next was an unprecedented humanitarian event that brought together Somalis in the diaspora.
“Somalis in Australia, America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia were calling me to inquire about Halima, and some donated funds for her,” said Lul, recalling her surprise and excitement.
After witnessing her ceaseless energy and determination as she tried to find a hospital for the young girl, some people asked her if Halima belonged to her clan. No, she was’nt.
Lul spent months talking to Somalis in the diaspora; from America to Malaysia, and everywhere in between. Her goal was to raise $30,000, and she brought in about $25,000 for Halima in a short period—all over the phone. The drive rallied other Somalis until the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in the United States agreed to operate on Halima. Lul sent $10,000 as a down payment to the hospital to begin the U.S. visa process for Halima and her father.
That’s when something miraculous happened:
“A Somali man donated all the travel expenses for Halima and her father and found her a hospital in Vienna, Austria, that would treat the girl for free,” Lul said. Plans for the Mayo Clinic treatment suddenly became redundant.
Hassan M. Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a political analyst, a contributor to WardheerNews, and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at [email protected].
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