Wake up, eat breakfast, and then go to school. This is the daily schedule for essentially each and every Canadian in their formative years. From learning to colour within the lines to struggling with higher mathematics, school allows for a child’s opportunity to be maximized and their potential to be fully realized. The classroom, the gymnasium, and the playground all have their part to play in teaching our youth a myriad of topics that pertain to all aspects of life and give children lessons, memories and friendships that can shape them and last them a lifetime.

In Canada, we’ve come to not only to accept and expect this education but also to take it for granted. Growing up we begrudgingly get up to go to school and doze off in class. But what if the education we had wasn’t compulsory? What if kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school weren’t milestones in Canadian children’s lives but a luxury they couldn’t afford? What if Canadian children had to work full-time to support themselves and their families and never got to go to school as a result? In many parts of the world, this is a devastating reality for countless children.

This is where the Somali Education Fund (SEF) comes into play. The Somali Education Fund was born from a handful of Ottawa based students believing that an accessible education is a right that all children deserve and that a child’s brain must be nourished with knowledge in the same way their bodies are with food. The Somali Education Fund began their campaign by connecting with a school in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu to support ten especially disadvantaged children. These children have all lost one, if not both, of their parents and have being taken in by family members who struggle to provide them with the bare necessities. The SEF’s goal is to support and fund the tuition costs of these students until they graduate. This education will give them the skills to be able to not only provide for their families, but to ultimately help their community thrive, creating and passing on knowledge that can be shared with future generations.

Despite currently only working with one school, the Somali Education Fund’s long-term goal is to establish a network across the Horn of Africa to ensure children around the region have access to education. Through teamwork and commitment to not only the cause but to the students, the SEF has already successfully paid for a full year’s education for all ten children since its inception in late 2016. The organization raises these funds through bake sales and local events. The Somali Education Fund, a grassroots charity dedicated to the education and wellbeing of children lacking resources, operate and live by a timeless Somali saying: Aqoon la’aan waa iftiin la’aan. Directly translated, this mantra dictates: to be without knowledge is to be without light.