Poonam Kaushal and Nishkaam Mehta of Santa Monica, California, are getting married today on Valentine’s Day. But instead of throwing a lavish ceremony, the couple is donating the budget for their wedding to feed hungry children in Africa.
“The notion of a big, traditional Indian wedding didn’t really feel like it fit us,” Kaushal told local station KABC-TV on Monday.
Kaushal and Mehta are forgoing the traditional week-long Indian wedding for a civil ceremony so they can put the money toward a cause they care about: Feeding children in Cameroon who have been forced to flee Boko Haram violence.
Boko Haram has killed at least 20,000 people and displaced more than 2.6 million since launching an Islamic insurgency in northeast Nigeria in 2009. Over the years, the homegrown terrorist group transformed into a regional movement that spread its attacks across the border into neighboring countries such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence have poured into nearby nations. Nearly 200,000 people are internally displaced in Cameroon’s Far North Region, mainly due to the Boko Haram insurgency, according to a report by the International Organization for Migration in November 2016.
Mehta, a pediatrician, said she has seen firsthand the irreversible and devastating impact that hunger has on children, both abroad and in their local community.
“For 50 cents you can give a day’s rations to a child in a conflict zone,” Mehta told KABC-TV.