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Food & Hunger

These College Kids Knocked on 700 Doors to Raise Money for Food in Somalia

somalia famine college kidsImage: JR Videos/Youtube

Inspired to do something about the drought-plagued Somalia, two Dordt College students in Sioux Center, Iowa, went door-to-door on their campus asking for quarters for famine relief.  

Last month, students Jesse Richards and Mark Schussler made a bet while playing a game, and agreed that the loser would have to knock on all 700 dorm room doors and ask for one quarter from each student.

Having lost the game, Richards at first figured he’d use all of the money to pay off a traffic ticket — that is, until he learned about the “Love Army for Somalia,” a social media movement created on behalf of internet celebrities and actor Ben Stiller’s Stiller Foundation to help Somalis in need.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that lack of food and access to clean water in the country has left more than 360,000 children acutely malnourished, around 70,000 of which require “urgent and life-saving support.” The United Nations estimates that without an effective response, those figures will double in 2017.  

Related Stories April 27, 2017 Two Minnesotans Raised More Than $92K for Somalia Famine Relief April 7, 2017 These 45 Restaurants Are Donating Half of Their Profits to Victims of Drought in Somalia

“We asked people for quarters because everyone uses them for laundry,” Richards said. “We figured everyone would have some, and it wasn’t too much to ask from a college student.”

When Richards and Schussler delved more deeply into the crisis, students usually gave more.

“We ended with like five $20 bills,” Richards added.

Four hours later, the two students had collected $253 from roughly 1,300 undergraduate students and even the president of the university. Those who didn’t donate, they mentioned, usually had no spare change, but “everybody gave something.”

A video created by Schussler and published on social media highlighted the community’s efforts and was eventually retweeted by Ben Stiller himself.

“Well done!” the actor commented, nodding to Vine Star Jerome Jarre and YouTube personality Casey Neistat for inspiring others by creating this movement in March.

“This movement started with a crazy idea, what if we could convince Turkish Airlines to let us use one of their flights to Somalia? And fill it with food! One shipment – providing immediate relief for immediate need,” reads the GoFundMe description.

Around $2.5 million later, 60 tons food were loaded onto a Turkish Airlines cargo plane and shipped to Somalia. The shipment consisted entirely of food for malnourished babies called Plumpy’sup, and only cost the group a little over $166,000.

With the remaining donations, the organizers bought water trucks and food locally to “support the Somali economy.”

More than 6.2 million people in Somalia urgently need humanitarian aid, and 3 million are facing food insecurity, according to the WHO.

Those are big numbers — seemingly unattainable to address. But as Richards and Schussler have shown, making a change for the millions of Somalis suffering from this food crisis can begin with one good idea.