Humanitarian Day in Detroit

By Nargis Hakim, MMNS

An overwhelming crowd of volunteers showed up at Cass Park on Humanitarian Day, this past Saturday. Running on it’s 3rd year in Detroit, Humanitarian Day is a national event annually ran and sponsored by Islamic Relief USA (IR), a global charity organization. “Each year they have been adding more and more cities across the country, this year having 19 cities across the US”, said Leslie (Lamiya) Wade, co-coordinator for Detroit with Hanifah Rahman.

Nearly 3,000 homeless citizens were expected to be served in Detroit amongst 25,000 nationwide between September 29 and 30th. IR reached out to other organizations to gather volunteers prior to this event. Because Humanitarian Day took place during the month of Ramadan, or the month in which Muslims fast, it was a challenging and moving experience for many. Mansour Sharha, distribution coordinator of this event and executive committee of Muslim American Society (MAS)Youth, expressed that “This is a month of blessing, the month of doing good deeds. All your deeds will be multiplied. It’s part of your obligation to contribute to your community”.

After being invited to the event last year, Fatima Younus, recruiter for WSU students, decided to get more involved. Younus gathered approximately 25 volunteers to help out from WSU, “It relates to WSU students because we have homeless people on our own campus”.

One of those people Younus recruited was Nayeem Amin, treasurer of WSU’s MSA. He said “two factors, Ramadan and the lack of work of Muslims in terms of volunteering,” motivated him to volunteer. However he enjoyed “working with people, and uplifting the name of Islam in the public eye for the sake of Allah”.

Reem Abou-Samra, was incharge of gathering and emailing information to volunteers. She encouraged volunteers to “socialize with people for whom you are providing services” and added, “Don’t forget to smile. It’s charity”.

According to Ahmad Saleh, a youth coordinator for the Islamic Center of Detroit, “When you’re helping people that are less fortunate than you, you sympathize with them more for them than when you hear about them on the news”. Media portrayal of the less fortunate is not the same as reality.

Items were distributed between 10 am and 2 pm. Hygiene kits, food, children’s books, sweatshirts, hats, and gloves were amongst the services provided by IR, smaller organizations, and donors. Working with IR, the Huda Clinic also provided free medical check-ups for participants.

Preparations for this event start long before the event takes place. In April coordinators were required to attend a training session. “Humanitarian Day takes a lot of work. “The planning begins as soon as the event ends. Each year, we are committed to increase the number of cities; I start by recruiting new cities in the fall and beginning of the year.” said Clareen Menzies, Islamic Relief’s Domestic Projects Manager”.

Detail-oriented directions are assigned in order to have the event run smoothly. “Planning entails obtaining city permits, raising fund, coordinating with the clinic, purchasing items, ordering tents and tables, coordinating the bus schedule with the shelters, recruiting plenty of volunteers and the list goes on with details all the way down to the garbage removal from the park after the event,” said Wade. Saleh agreed, It was “well organized, IR thought of everything, from the kids to the adults. Even while waiting in line, they got popcorn and drinks”.

Because IR is a Muslim charity, people may think twice about volunteering for their events. However, Islamic Relief is a professional charity and has gotten recognition from around the world including from Prince Charles, The New York Times, and The Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. Mostafa Mahboob, Media and Public Relations Representative of IR explained, “As we all know Muslim charity has been much highlighted in the media after Sept. 11 and as a charity we strive to use our donors funds in the most efficient and transparent manners.”

IR affects 35 countries which are facing emergencies, seasonal problems, and development issues. “The important thing is the basic goal to help humanity and the most unfortunate people around the world”, informed Mahboob. “You got homeless in every religion and race”, added Hicks. Assisting those in need is the key idea, it’s not about who they are.

Xaiveir Farv, one of those who came out to Humanitarian Day said “From helping the people and for you guys to come out to do what you doing today, it shows there are still a handful of people who care and help out others who need it.”

Tremendous support was shown as participants ranged from high school students, college students, to leaders of religious organizations. Amongst schools there were students from Canton High School, Cass Technical High School, U of M Dearborn, and WSU. Organizations included MAS Youth, MSA from U of M and WSU, ICD, the Muslim Center, and Young Muslims for Faith and Action. Other organizations in Detroit were, ILM Foundation, Islamic Shura Council of MI, Life for Relief and Development, and the Ford Interfaith Network.

President of U of M’s MSA, Zeshahn Humayun enjoyed being apart of the festivities. “My MSA likes to do community services, it’s one of our objectives. Just coming out here and helping people interests us. Especially for this many people at this scale, there’s a lot of people coming together and helping each other”.

Eric Hicks, 32 appreciates the services provided by Humanitarian Day. He hopes to one day be able to give back in the same way he received care. “In moral sense, it was uplifting. I don’t want to have to need this anymore. I want to be a productive citizen. This event exceeded my expectations”.

“Islamic Relief is a non-profit humanitarian organization that strives to alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy, and diseases worldwide regardless of race, religion, or political and social standing.” said Menzies. IR is currently working on forming a emergency response system for crises like Katrina.

Shahra encouraged volunteers to reflect on their experience and be grateful for the opportunity to volunteer. “I would encourage everybody who helped out today to thank Allah (swt) for giving them this opportunity to help all the needy people and continue helping the needy on a daily basis…if not physically, they can still make dua. Homeless people are everywhere, we need to keep them off the streets”.

Sharmin Hakim, Hamtramck Youth Council’s co-vice president, said that this event “made me feel more helpful, giving, and want to be more organized because you can see the outcome”.

Wanda Burger, 41, said “I was just walking by. Thank you, I really appreciate it”.

Anthony Jaworski, member of Intervarsity and Health Pro Start, really wanted to get involved in the community. “I want to do it next year. It was a lot of fun and a great way to meet people!”


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