Amina Abawajy, whose parents are originally from Ethiopia, is hoping to affect change before the number of people requiring aid reaches 15 million.

By Rebecca Dingwell |

When Amina Abawajy read about the drought and resulting famine in Ethiopia, she wanted to do something about it.

“There was no awareness about this issue,” Abawajy said Saturday.

According to the United Nations, Ethiopia is currently experiencing its worst drought in decades.

With the support of her family, Amina Abawajy started a GoFundMe page called Not 15 Million in October.

“This campaign started with the goal of doing something before the number (of people requiring food aid) reaches 15 million,” she explained.

Most recently, it’s been estimated 10.2 million people are in need of food aid, according to the Government of Ethiopia.

Amina Abawajy is a Dalhousie University student who was born and raised in Halifax, but both her parents are from Ethiopia. Abawajy’s mother, Sueda Ali, said she is proud of the work her daughter is doing.

“(Amina is) doing something for her mother and father’s country,” said Ali. “I just feel very happy and I wish everything will be successfully accomplished.”

The campaign has spread the word through social media and small fundraisers. They’ve raised almost $2,000 online from people across Canada.

“We’re really privileged here and it doesn’t really hit you in the face until you see it first hand,” said Abawajy.

Amina Abawajy has visited Ethiopia twice, with her most recent visit being last February.

“Even though it wasn’t a famine… there was still so little,” she said. “To know that was the norm, and to know right now they’re struggling even below that level, I guess that personal connection is what really drew me to this.”

On Jan. 16, the Not 15 Million campaign is putting on a fundraising dinner at Dalhousie. There will be all-you-can-eat Ethiopian food, as well as cultural and traditional performances.

“We really don’t want the image of Ethiopia to always be of famine,” said Abawajy. “This is the situation we’re dealing with right now and what we want to bring attention to, but we want it to be through displays of culture.”

“Just the amount of diversity in one country is incredible and we’re very excited to showcase that,” she said.

The goal of the fundraiser is to raise $15,000, which Abawajy explained will provide emergency relief to 50 families for a month.

Th­at money will be split between the three Ethiopian regions most affected by the famine. Amina Abawajy has reached out to grassroots organizations in those areas, and Not 15 Million has partnered with them to help people get the food they need.

“We feel this is the best way to move forward in empowering local communities to take action.”

With the help of the NGOs, Not 15 Million has already successfully distributed some food and necessities. Amina Abawajy is excited to see it happening.

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