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Big step forward for local Somalis

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Getting a community of people to come together to raise money for a major purchase is challenging under any circumstances. Now consider that the people involved have deep cultural divisions and mistrust fomented by a civil war.

The nonprofit Somali Community and Development Association of Rochester has taken a major step forward by purchasing the building at 15 Hudson Avenue. The group has been renting space on South Plymouth Avenue.

"It's a big move," says association President Mohamed Gazali.

The association offers education and charitable and religious services including legal advice, crisis assistance, interpretation and translation help, and employment assistance, as well as providing a gathering place for weddings, dinners, and other events.

It is not always easy to get the local Somali community to function cohesively, Gazali says, because of their history. Somalia has been involved in a long and brutal civil war with rival factions competing for power.

Gazali says the association plans to move to the new site in about six months, depending on how long it takes to fix up the building. He says he hopes the successful purchase of the building shows members of the local Somali community, as well as the broader Rochester community, that Somalis can work together and can contribute.

"I want to be part of the Rochester life," Gazali says. "I don't want to feel like some kind of foreigner. I live here. I want to change want goes on in my street. I want to change what goes on in my city. We have to sit together and work as a people."

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