Monday, July 22, 2013

Keeping Hope Alive by Dr. Hawa Abdi as told to Sarah J Robbins

Abdi is a medical doctor who had the fortune to train in Russia on scholarship at a time when few women did.  Later her daughters and son would also receive education in Russia on scholarship.

While doing her residency in various specialties, she changed her mind many times about she wanted to do.  When she began caring for women and children she unexpectedly found her niche.  She wanted very much to help the many poor women receive needed medical care, find jobs, feed their children.  Abdi had resources both in land and in a bit of money that she used to establish first a clinic then a hospital for these needy people. Any money she had she poured back into the compound, adding farming, job training and so on. When drought hit and later during spurts of violent clashes between warring clans, Abdi expanded her hospital, served anyone in need who did not bring the fighting and intolerance into her compound.  Such was her dedication that she sent her children to safety in Kenya and remain behind to administer to the needs of those caught in poverty, starvation and violence. 

Abdi has a charisma, wisdom and strength that allowed her to keep out of politics, and keep her growing compound neutral territory.  As problems deepened aid groups from around the world tried to step in and help. One such agency was Doctors Without Borders which had to pull out when some of the aide workers were killed in violence.  Eventually the United States tried to help as well but their military tactics tended to add to the problems rather than help with solutions.

Things are a bit more settled now.  Abdi's two daughters do much to run the compound for their aging mother.  Abdi still focuses on women, children and anyone else in desperate need.  She concentrates on schooling and on campaigning against female circumcisions which are so harmful to women.  She has received several prizes for her tireless work for her beloved Somalians.  She has established a foundation to keep her projects funded.  See

Although Abdi was blessed in many ways her life was not without hardship, errors in judgment, heartache.  I think its important to remember this. 

What bothered one reader most was that there was not more Somalian History and Politics explained.  For another reader the frequently out of sequence memories were confusing.

This memoir is mostly well written and quite riveting.  It would make a good Common Core Narrative Nonfiction selection.  It could be paired with Nick Lake's historical fiction book In Darkness as there are similarities in the cause of violence, and poverty.
LD/JW 7/22/13

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