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|Radio Program Is A Hit With Somalis|
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 7/30/2003
Every Saturday afternoon, about 50 people pack the Dunkin' Donuts on Memorial Drive in Clarkston, intently listening to the radio.
From 2 to 4 p.m., the transplanted Somalis in the eatery have their ears tuned to what Dunkin' Donuts clerk Ali Gani calls "a community event" - one of three weekly broadcasts of Sagal Radio Services (SRS), Atlanta's Somali language radio station.
The station, based near Decatur, caters to the 4,000 or so Somali refugees resettled in the metro area after fleeing the civil war in their homeland.
"People want to hear good news - such as there's a government," quipped SRS director Hussien Mohamed.
The radio program is staffed by volunteers and student interns. It runs only six hours a week on a noncommercial radio station, WATB-AM (1420).
SRS was born when Mohamed, who works at the Atlanta affiliate of the international aid group World Relief, saw that his fellow Somalis lacked a basic understanding of the United States.
"The people didn't know minor things," he said.
So in 1998, Mohamed and a few volunteers started the program "Sagal," named after the Somali word for sunset.
"They may not know English, may have no money, and most have never rented an apartment or set up utility bills," said Lexi Malkin, an SRS intern. "It's already hard enough to do all this. If you don't speak English, it's even harder."
Shows have featured information on fire safety and health specials on SARS and West Nile virus. Volunteer correspondents in Somalia and Brussels, Belgium, keep listeners updated on international news.
Malkin and three other Emory University students are working with SRS this summer. They're also trying to find sponsors. The $30,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development that funds the program is in the second year of its potential three-year term.
Mohamed plans to add more broadcasts of English lessons, pending funding. He's also planning more shows dealing with American culture, like the one that aired before the Fourth of July this year warning listeners not to fear the booming fireworks.
"They might have thought a war had started," he said.