Julian Omidi discusses the volunteer organization Nafeer, which has been helping the people of Sudan survive the recent devastating summer floods. Julian Omidi is cofounder of the nonprofit organization Civic Duty with his brother Dr. Michael Omidi.
People are far more likely to donate money to charity than they are likely to volunteer. The notion of helping your neighbor merely because he or she is your neighbor and a part of the community is dwindling, so it is extremely heartening to find an example of community service without expectation of some kind of remuneration.
Through the massive international sweep of social media, a group of young Sudanese has created an effort that has galvanized a massive humanitarian action for the benefit of their countrymen. The members of the volunteer organization Nafeer are resurrecting a Sudanese tradition of selfless volunteerism in order to rescue the thousands affected by the great flooding in Sudan.
The flooding is estimated to be the worst in more than 20 years. The region has historically gone through periods of drought followed by massive flooding, but this season’s flooding, which began in August, has been especially hard. Khartoum was the most seriously affected, since it is essentially a city built in a basin.
The exact number of those who have been killed as a direct result of the flood is yet unknown, but it is believed to be at least 30. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed. The floods have made already oppressive conditions in the refugee camps unbearable. Temporary dwellings have washed away; mud and filth are inescapable; malaria has spread like a brush fire. Six United Nations peacekeepers were caught up in one of the most violent floods and washed away.
The word “nafeer” comes from the Arabic; it is essentially a rallying cry or a call to action. The group was activated after a social media campaign that was formed decided that the government response was ineffectual. The group consists primarily of young students, in their teens and mid-twenties, and is about 5,000 strong.
Nafeer volunteers provide support, rescue and emergency provisions. The volunteers drive out to remote locations delivering tarps, tents, food and other emergency supplies to the flood victims all over Sudan. Their efforts are so organized that they manage to have a representative answer nearly every call from their 24 hour call centers – something that governmental agencies have not been able to do.
These young volunteers have given something far more valuable than the sum of their supplies; they have essentially given the locals a feeling of invaluable cultural togetherness while helping them through a massive crisis. We at Civic Duty applaud the efforts of Nafeer, and we hope that their example is heeded by more people, young and old alike.
By Julian Omidi