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An earlier generation understood all too well the need to send money overseas

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Dylan Fresco
Dylan Fresco is a freelance actor, writer, musician and educator. He lives in Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Dylan Fresco

By Dylan Fresco

Dylan Fresco is a freelance actor, writer, musician and educator. He lives in Minneapolis. 

Like countless immigrants before them, many in the Somali community here in Minnesota send money each month to relatives back in the old country. But recently, due to liability concerns related to terrorism, the last bank that allowed these transfers from Minnesota stopped the service. This has left people with no way to support their loved ones in Somalia who are hungry and hurting. 

When my Dad was a kid, during World War II, his parents would send money to relatives back in Europe who were in danger. Grandpa Norman helped an uncle who needed false papers to cross a border. He'd also send money to his sister, who was hiding in Paris and short on food. And he tried, but failed, to get his other sister out of Greece before the Germans came in. 

My dad still remembers the day the official letter arrived at their house, informing Grandpa Norman that, yes, his sister had been killed, along with her husband and their daughter Zelda. Dad says it was the only time he would ever see his father cry.

Right now, people in Somalia are facing famine and drought, starvation and war. One of their only lifelines has been the money sent from relatives abroad. 

Like the nice lady who pushes a cleaning cart down the aisle at the office. Or that middle-aged cab driver. Or the pharmacist whose daughter might sit next to your neighbor's kid in math class. An old coworker of mine has two uncles in Mogadishu. They're in their 70s, and she says they're not doing well. She sends them money each month for food and medicine; when there's a bombing there, she can't sleep for the worry.

My dad is 81 now, and his health could be better. He's back in New York, and I worry about him every day. But I can be grateful that I've never been concerned about his access to food or water.

There are good people, who live in our neighborhoods, who will sit down for dinner tonight with their kids, and all they'll think about is loved ones overseas who are hungry. And now that they can no longer send money, there's nothing they can do to help.

That could make anybody cry.