Ambition and laser focus grow Yemen Aid’s success exponentially
A one hundred dollar donation can turn into millions in three years. This is how.
In 2016, Sohair Omar, a Muslim woman from Connecticut, was watching a heartbreaking documentary on BBC: Omar watched how everyday Yemenis, trapped in a war, were suffering unimaginable tragedies including famine. These were not numbers on a page. Omar saw the pain on the faces of victims as they recounted their devastating stories and the frail bodies of starving children. She wondered how such a disastrous humanitarian crisis could be ignored on major news outlets.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586
Determined to act, she reached out to a Yemeni friend of her mom’s and handed her a one hundred dollar bill. Omar asked her to send the money to family in Yemen and explained that if they were to organize, turning that $100 to $10,000 for the people of Yemen would be possible.
The people of Yemen were ready, so Omar and two other Yemeni families came together and got to work. They shared information about problems in Yemen. Money was gathered and sent via Western Union and MoneyGram to volunteers on the ground in Yemen.
This scene isn’t unique. Informal groups like this are in cities all over the world. What’s unique is what they do next.
Omar has a background in government and organizing is first nature to her. The group immediately decided to register as a non-profit. They would become Yemen Aid. Next, they needed to find a CEO to represent them well. Their ideal candidate would be a woman who would prize transparency and share their ambition to make changes for the people of Yemen.
They found what they were looking for in Summer Nasser.
Nasser is a Yemeni-American and at the time, she was a paralegal for immigration. As a teen, she had been a passionate activist around issues in Yemen. She ran a blog that commented on Yemen’s public policy. Nasser understands the confusing political landscape, different factions, and complexities of Yemen more than most. Her analyses were featured on BBC and CNN and has given public talks at various universities and the United Nation.
Within two years of creating Yemen Aid, donations skyrocketed from thousands to over a million dollars. Yemen Aid’s success and approach rely on forging key partnerships. Their strong ties to Aden and Taiz allow them to operate efficiently and get around barriers most nonprofits struggle to overcome.
Yemen Aid recruits top professionals in their field to volunteer. They innovate, move quickly, and remain transparent while keeping the best interests of Yemenis at the forefront. They have a singular, laser focus on Yemen, committing themselves 100% to its people and causes. The organization proudly displays its receipts and financial reports on its website.
The organization now has a dozen full-time staff in Aden who execute their projects. They hire experts in Yemen when needed. This means the people working on the projects are from Yemen, live in Yemen, and love Yemen. Organizing in this way ensures that the right issues are tackled and money and opportunities go directly to the people of Yemen and not additional overhead costs.
The hopes and ambition with which that first one hundred dollar donation was given can still be seen in all that Yemen Aid does. While also helping with emergency crises, they also have their eye on the future - rebuilding Yemen. They have overseen sustainable projects like solar panels, livestock, and greenhouses. And they will not stop until “Every Yemeni is self-sufficient and has access to clean water, health care, education, and economic opportunities.” That is Yemen Aid’s vision statement.
Eyes to the future
Yemen Aid is more than a success. They have grown to become an instrumental organization that impacts millions of lives through food, medical, shelter, and clean water projects throughout Yemen. The future will usher in more sustainable and innovative projects for the people of Yemen. Here are some projects on the roster for 2021:
Leadership / Capacity Training
Women Economic Development
Women Mental Health Assistance
Yemen Aid is a reminder that with ambition and hard work, a simple $100 donation will grow beyond your expectations.
Lend a hand
Yemen Aid will continue to innovate and do great things in Yemen. Here are ways you can help: