Day 31: Dr. Hawa Abdi

Dr. Hawa Abdi is a human rights activist and physician in Somalia. She was born in Mogadishu in 1947. After her mother died when she was 12, she took on family chores as he eldest child. Her father was an educated professional. Abdi was able to continue her schooling, attending local elementary school and intermediate and secondary academies. In 1964 she received a scholarship from the Women’s Committee of the Soviet Union, allowing her to study at a Kiev institution. In 1972, a year after graduating, she began law studies at Somali National University.  The next year, she got married and in 1975 gave birth to her first child. She would practice medicine in the morning and work towards her law degree in her spare time, which she got in 1979.


Dr. Abdi, with daughters  Dr. Deqo Adan and Dr. Amina Adan

In 1983, Abdi opened the Rural Health Development Organisation (RHDO) on family-owned land. The one-room clinic offering free obstetrician services evolved into a 400-bed hospital. During the Somali civil war in the 1990’s, Abdi stayed in the region at the behest of her grandmother to continue to assist the vulnerable. She subsequently established a new clinic and school for the displaced and orphans. In 2005, rebels made attempts to shut down her clinic.  She stood her ground and the rebels left, with the help of pressure from local residents, the UN and other advocacy groups. In 2012, militants again stormed the clinic, temporarily shutting it down until their eventual departure.

In 2007, RHDO was renamed the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) which is now run by her and her two physician daughters. The DHAF compound includes a hospital, school and nutrition center that provides shelter and care to mostly women and children. Since its founding, it has served an estimated 2 million people, all free of charge. Several fishing and agricultural projects are also run on the compound to instill self-sufficiency.  Funding for this work comes from Somali ex-pats as well as the international donor community.  For her efforts on women’s rights and women’s health, she has received numerous recognitions including the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award (2014), Hiraan Online’s Person of the Year (2007), and, along with her daughters, among the list of 2010 Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year.” She was also nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, and received BET’s Social Humanitarian Award.

For today, take a moment to read about the critical moment in Abdi’s life that has led her to making this amazing impact in the world: “When I decided to become a doctor, I was very, very young, when my mother was pregnant with her seventh child, and she was feeling terrible pain, and I did not know how to help her. And my mother died in front of my eyes, without knowing why, which diagnosis. So I decided to be a doctor.” 


Day 27: David Richie

David Richie (1908-2005) came from a long line of Quaker families in the Philadelphia/southern NJ area. He was a graduate of Moorestown Friends School and Haverford College. He returned to Moorestown Friends in as a social studies teacher until 1939 before becoming executive secretary of Friends Social Order Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a position he stayed in for 34 years. It was here that he founded Quaker Workcamps that took place in Philadelphia, around the US and in Europe. In 1946, AFSC asked him to bring this work to war-torn Poland, Finland, Germany, Italy and England. With the aid of British Friends, he helped distribute clothing, food and medical supplies. Back in Philadelphia, he established weekend Quaker Workcamps that brought thousands of volunteers to underserved communities and, as importantly, inspired many of these volunteers to a deeper life of service as well as to Quakerism. His spirit lives on in our William Penn Quaker Workcamps.


David Richie in Finland, 1947

For today, consider these words from his memoirs: “For many years I have been encouraged by the thought: ‘You can count the seed in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed.’”

Day 23: Henry Cadbury

Born to a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia, Henry Cadbury (1883-1974) was a biblical scholar, Quaker historian, writer and non-profit administrator. Although he was a Quaker throughout his life, he was essentially an agnostic. He was forced out of his teaching position at Haverford for writing an anti-war letter in 1918. This experience was a milestone for him, leading him to service beyond the Religious Society of Friends. He was a founding member of the American Friends Service Committee in 1917 and its chairman from 1928-34 and again from 1944-60.  He received a Ph.D. from Harvard, but initially rejected its oath because of the Quaker insistence that truth should always be told. He organized Friends from various branches to discuss the issue of how to deal with the draft and through that created an organization that would later help to rebuild Europe twice.

AFSC - 38Henry Cadburry_1

In 1947, AFSC and British Friends Service Committee accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends. Cadbury delivered the Nobel lecture on behalf of AFSC.  From his lecture:

“The common people of all nations want peace. In the presence of great impersonal forces they feel individually helpless to promote it. You are saying to them here today that common folk, not statesmen, nor generals nor great men of affairs, but just simple plain men and women like the few thousand Quakers and their friends, if they devote themselves to resolute insistence on goodwill in place of force, even in the face of great disaster past or threatened, can do something to build a better, peaceful world. The future hope of peace lies with such personal sacrificial service. To this ideal humble persons everywhere may contribute.”