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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Refugee Camps in Lebanon Tell a Sad Story

In the last leg of their six-week trip into the field, CEO Abed Ayoub and an Islamic Relief USA team went to Lebanon last week after wrapping up portions of their trip in Jordan, Mali, and Ghana. In addition to meeting with government officials, the team had been visiting schools and Islamic Relief programs in the countries.

Before leaving Jordan, the team visited a camp filled with refugees with Palestinian backgrounds. The camp had been established in 1967 and populated with Palestinian refugees who had fled their homes in 1948, went to Gaza, and then fled again to Jordan in 1967, settling in tents in the Jarash area before the camp was established. None of the refugees ever registered with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).

According to Yousef Abdallah, Islamic Relief USA’s Northeast Regional Manager, who traveled with the team, only 8 out of 20,000 refugees have a Jordanian social security number and residency rights.

The only medical clinic at this camp of 20,000 refugees sees about 450 cases a day, and the poverty level is quite high, Abdallah reported. At one pre-K school, 90 students are divided into two rooms, and no more children can join due to limited space. Walking through the streets, the team witnessed above-ground sanitation canals and houses with asbestos. Ayoub pledged to help the camp with medicine and medical help.

Also while in Jordan, Ayoub signed a Memorum of Understanding (MOU) with the Jordanian Alliance Against Hunger and signed a grant agreement with the UN World Food Program for a school feeding program. A draft MOU was also sent to the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization for review and approval. Once that is signed by both parties, IR USA plans to ship medicine to Jordan to be disseminated by the JHCO and the Islamic Relief Jordan office.

After arriving in the country, the IR USA team went with a UNRWA team to northern Lebanon to visit the camps of Albadawi and Nahr al-Bared, near the city of Tripoli. At the Albadawi camp, the team visited an UNRWA school and was briefed on the situation inside the camp. An Islamic Relief representative, Nabil Namani from the IR Lebanon office, said they were planning drill a well for the school.

As the team toured the camp, they witnessed poor living conditions, an unorganized expansion, and exposed electrical wiring, according to Abdallah. Some of the homes they visited were for families who had fled the fighting in Nahr al-Bared.

"It's extremely poor [living conditions]," Abdallah said. "You can see the frustrations in their eyes. They left their homes in Nahr al-Bared in their night gowns, barefooted, without being able to take any of their belongings with them. They have no jobs, and Allah knows what's awaiting them.”

From the Albadawi camp the IR USA team went to the Nahr al-Bared camp after going through numerous checkpoints. Once inside, they saw that a camp that used to house 17,000 refugees was in rubble and ruins. The whole camp was destroyed, Abdallah said. UNRWA is planning to rebuild the camp, but is unsure if they will be able to finish due to a lack of funding.

"No matter how much we are trying to help, there is always more need,” Ayoub said. "All the things I've seen on this trip, as hard as it’s been to see, has only strengthened the resolve of Islamic Relief USA to work harder and do more inshallah."

--Reporting by Yousef Abdallah

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day of Dignity in South Dakota: Scenes from Crow Creek Reservation

The kick-off of this year's Day of Dignity campaign was at the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota last week, and it was a sobering, yet satisfying day that we spent there. There is beauty in the land and people of the reservation, but not in the conditions they are living in.

Driving through South Dakota is like driving through time--a time when America was a much simpler place. As I rode through this scenic state, I passed countless farms with grazing cattle and general stores. You could ride for hours and not see a stop sign. For a city guy like myself, this was very different from what I am used too.

Then suddenly the scene changes. The picturesque farms are replaced with trailer homes and temporary housing. Joblessness and poverty plague Crow Creek and many other reservations. Reservations were intended to give the Native Americans their own sovereign land. But instead they have become outposts where the original people of the Americas have been sent to and generally ignored.

As we drove through the reservations, we saw the homes that had been built for the mostly Sioux population. Some of the people live in dilapidated structures. Jobs are scarce and also the opportunities for many Sioux people are limited on the reservation. Despite the difficulties on the reservation the people of Crow Creek are very welcoming.

We wound our way through the reservation up to the parking lot of the community center. From there our Islamic Relief USA volunteers, who had taken the two and a half hour ride from Sioux Falls to Fort Thompson (where the Crow Creek reservation is), hopped out of the bus eager to assist. They quickly unloaded the van and began to stuff the Islamic Relief bags with goods, including food, hygiene kits, blankets, and other basic living supplies. Next to the supply van the volunteers set up a small kid’s carnival equipped with a variety of children’s games and prizes. More than 800 recipients stopped by; enjoying the games and the goods that Islamic Relief and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had donated to this cause.

Members of the community and the tribal council thanked IR USA and its volunteers for their efforts. We left the day hoping that we made a small a difference, if just for one day. Inshallah, I pray that we can do more to assist these people, whose ancestors lay the foundation for this land that we now know as America. Click here to learn more about the Day of Dignity campaign, when it is coming to a city near you, and how you can help out.

--Karim Amin, Islamic Relief USA Domestic Programs Coordinator

Friday, June 25, 2010

UMMA Clinic Honors Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief USA: What Matters Most are Those in Need

With any job, even if you are passionate about it and love it, there are moments when we need extra motivation to perform the very best that we can. And especially when you work for a relief and development agency like Islamic Relief USA, those reminders of who your true "employers" are can be humbling and welcoming at the same time.

I’ve been with this organization for nearly four months now in an editorial capacity. I know that my employers are not just the CEO, or even the Board of Directors. The employers who matter most are the people we are trying to help: those in need, those who go without basic necessities of life, those who suffer during emergencies and crisis.

But knowing that, I still need to be reminded. At our weekly office staff meeting, Belkacem Nahi, IR USA's Development Coordinator, briefed the staff on what he saw during his recent travels with our CEO Abed Ayoub and the IR USA team in Ghana and Mali. The stories he told brought tears to my eyes. He related how he spoke with a mother in Mali, who has eight members in her family. He asked her how she fed the family. She replied that four people ate at lunch, and four people ate at dinner – and it was a very spare meal.

Anwar Khan, IR USA’s Vice President of Fund Development who has traveled extensively in the field, said, "One in four children in Mali die before their 5th birthday. It is one of the worst human development situations in the world." He added, "Every time you go into the field, you carry some of that pain back with you, and you come back determined to do more for these people."

Khan said that it was the job of IR USA to "give [those we are helping], at the very least, the minimum of help. And no matter how much we think we are doing," he said, “we can do more than that.”

"The war [in African countries] is against starvation and disease," he said. "And the best we can give them is our unlimited help and our love."

At the same meeting, Karim Amin, IR USA's Domestic Programs Coordinator, and Seyed Mowlana, IR USA's IT Systems Engineer, spoke about their experiences at the annual Day of Dignity event at the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota last weekend. Mowlana said it was an experience he would never forget: "This is one of the forgotten places," he said. "I saw Native Americans living in the most broken-down places, having contaminated water to drink – water that wouldn’t even be safe if boiled. This is in our own country."

Their day spent at the reservation was a hard, but uplifting one, Amin said. Those on the reservation were happy to see them, and the IR USA team of volunteers was able to distribute food and medical kits to hundreds of people.

I've come to learn in my time with IR USA that the need out there is very, very great indeed. There are many people who need help, who need sponsorship, who need healthcare, who need education. It motivated me to do my job well, and to get the word out. Your help is needed always. Your donations are needed. Your volunteer time is needed. To donate, please click here.
--Dilshad D. Ali

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day of Dignity 2010 Coming to South Dakota

Day of Dignity 2010 is set to begin with this Saturday’s kick-off effort at a community center at the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota in conjunction with the children’s Pow Wow. Domestic Programs Coordinator Karim Amin will be on hand to facilitate activities there. It’s the eighth year that Islamic Relief USA’s Day of Dignity campaign is taking place as a grassroots effort bringing volunteers together around the country to distribute food, clothing, blankets, medical care first aid, and other social services to those in need.

Crow Creek is the first of 22 cities where a "Day of Dignity" will occur, and the entire campaign is estimated to draw more than 2,000 volunteers who in turn will serve nearly 20,000 homeless and people in need throughout the country.

"Every year more and more local communities and volunteers join this national movement to assist their neighbors in need," said Amin. 'The Day of Dignity event sites are very diverse and stretch from the busy streets of Brooklyn, New York to the wide plains of the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota."

Please visit the Day of Dignity website for more information on how to help at Crow Creek or at other cities across the nation. For the Crow Creek location, please contact local event coordinator Victor David at for more information. To learn more about Islamic Relief USA, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Team Visits Orphans in Jordan

Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub and his team concluded their trip through several African countries and are now in Jordan. In addition to meeting with government officials, the team has been visiting schools and Islamic Relief programs in the countries.

With Islamic Relief USA Development Coordinator Belkacem Nahi returning to the U.S., Yousef Abdallah, regional manager for community development, joined Ayoub and the IR USA team in Jordan where they visited IR’s office in Amman and met with the Secretary General Ahmad Mohammad Al-Iman of the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization. Ayoub informed Al-Iman that a $20 million shipment of medicine will be arriving in Jordan in about three weeks. The JHCO and IR Jordan offices will distribute the medicine. The two groups also discussed future projects they may collaborate on together.

The IR USA's team continued to have meetings with various organizations, including Alliance Against Hunger, who is an Islamic Relief partner in the U.S. Ayoub pledged to help the group’s work in Jordan succeed. The team also visited the al Baqa’a camp, where they conducted case studies on two orphans sponsored by donors in the U.S. One of the orphans has been physically disabled since birth, with shortened arms and legs. Donor sponsorship has helped in her treatments, but she expressed a desire for more help so that she could return to school.

The second case study was with a child who was a refugee from Gaza and had some mental disabilities. Her step-father was ill and out of work with no source of income other than the Islamic Relief USA sponsorship.

"It's so important for us to do these case studies to see where the orphan sponsorship money is actually being used and how it is helping the beneficiaries," Ayoub said. "It also provides that real connection for us to the people who are in need of our help."

After their time in the camp, the team returned to Amman to meet with Dr. Nayef Al Fayez of the Ministry of Health. Al Fayez expressed his appreciation for Islamic Relief's work in Jordan and around the world, and Ayoub said IR USA was interested in doing more work in Jordan’s health sector. The two agreed to further discuss Islamic Relief USA's offer to provide hospitals with medical equipment.

"Alhumdulillah it's been such an honor to meet with these officials and to hear that our work is having some real benefit for those who need it most. It inspires us to make plans for how we can do more," Ayoub said.

Check back to this blog to read more about Ayoub and Islamic Relief USA's trip, which will be concluding in a few days. Click here to read about their time in Ghana and here to read about their visit to Mali.

--Reporting by Yousef Abdallah

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day of Dignity 2010 Expands to Help More People in More Cities

Volunteers across the country are teaming up with Islamic Relief USA in the annual Day of Dignity effort to serve thousands of homeless and underserved people in 21 cities.

After eight years of organizing the event only during the month of Ramadan, Islamic Relief USA lengthened the Day of Dignity 2010 effort to 10 weekends and expanded it to 22 cities. The first event is on June 19 in South Dakota and the last event will be in December.

Providing beneficiaries with food, clothing, blankets, medical care, first aid, and other social services, IR USA staff and volunteers will offer assistance to all who attend, regardless of their backgrounds.

"Day of Dignity is a great reminder to all of everyone, especially the youth, about the struggle of our neighbors," said Seyed Mowlana, veteran Washington, D.C. coordinator. "We serve people who are just like us--the only difference is that they may not have a proper roof over their heads."

To read more of this post, click over to our Day of Dignity site.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Hosting Blood Drive for World Blood Donor Day

In honor of the upcoming World Blood Donor Day, Islamic Relief USA is hosting a blood drive this Saturday, June 12, from 9 am to 6 pm at its headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

World Blood Donor Day, which takes place on the 14th of June each year, aims to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution that voluntary, unpaid blood donors make to national health systems. Today, 57 countries have achieved 100 percent voluntary blood donation, up from 39 in 2002.

"The need for blood is increasing in all parts of the world," said Nazia Hossain, IR USA volunteer coordinator. “We all can make an important contribution by donating blood and by recruiting others to do the same. In these trying times, it's an easy way for us to address the needs of our community.”

This is IR USA’s first blood drive. Islamic Relief volunteers are calling the drive, "Got blood? Give blood." Nearly 30 volunteers and IR USA staff have signed up to give blood, and the organization is urging anyone who wants to give to come out on Saturday and do so.

"We picked a Saturday, so that it will be more convenient for community members who work and go to school during the weekdays to participate" said Shukri Abdi, an IR USA volunteer. Shukri recently graduated with a B.S. in Health Science and has been an integral part of the blood drive preparations.

The global campaign this year is focusing on young donors with the slogan, "New Blood for the World.” According to the World Blood Donor Day website, the campaign hopes to motivate a new generation of young volunteer blood donors to form a pool that “provides the safest blood possible."

For more information, please email Hossein at, or visit the World Blood Donor Day website to find more blood drive locations around the country. For Islamic Relief USA's address, visit our website.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Slideshow: Umma Clinic Donor Wall Ceremony Featuring IR USA

Islamic Relief USA, a longtime funder of the UMMA clinic, was on hand at the clinic's donor wall ceremony. Check out the slideshow below to see more. To read about the ceremony, click here.

Congressman Ellison Honors Supporters of Muslim-run Community Health Clinic

University Muslim Medical Association, better known as UMMA Clinic, unveiled a decorative mural this past weekend bearing the name of all its donors, including Islamic Relief USA, a longtime funder and supporter of the clinic.

Saleem Khalid, IR USA's Domestic Programs Manager, has always been impressed with UMMA Clinic's work and said he was honored to attend the wall’s unveiling ceremony on Saturday in Los Angeles. Congressman Keith Ellison and Los Angeles City Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas were also on hand and spoke before a crowd of about 100 supporters.

"UMMA exists because of the people who care about the patients that it serves," Ellison told the crowd, who responded with enthusiastic applause. "The Muslim community in the United States is here to make a positive contribution to our neighbors, here to be a blessing to [the] community, and I can't think of a better example than the people here at UMMA Clinic," he said.
UMMA provides a wide variety of medical services to the underserved communities of South L.A., but one of their patients told the crowd it was more than just medical service. Arturo Garcia, a homeless man who bakes bread for a living, addressed the crowd in Spanish. He called UMMA’s relationship with the community a "brotherhood" and thanked those who support the clinic.

"Gracias UMMA," he said.

Islamic Relief USA has been one of the clinic’s top supporters since it was founded in 1996. More than 3,000 people visit UMMA Clinic every year to take advantage of the vital services, which include prenatal care, basic health services and immunizations for children.

"Islamic Relief USA is pleased to help support UMMA Clinic sustain the invaluable work that they do. The clinic's efforts to provide access to quality, affordable health care regardless of ability to pay, is consistent with our mission at IR USA, which is in part, to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner," said Khalid. "We look forward to a continued role in supporting the ever expanding activities of UMMA Clinic."

Rep. Ellison was impressed to hear about Islamic Relief USA's support of the clinic.

"I think it’s fundamentally important that the great work that Islamic Relief does around the world is reflected here in the United States," he said. "Americans need to see the beneficial presence of well-run Muslim charity organizations doing good work here in America," he added.

To read more about Islamic Relief USA's domestic projects, please click here. To see a slideshow of the event, please click here.

--Zeyad Maasarani

Islamic Relief's Microcredit Program Thriving in Mali

Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub and his team continue their trip through several African countries before departing to the United Kingdom and Jordan. In addition to meeting with government officials, the team has been visiting schools and Islamic Relief programs in the countries.

Ghana Wrapup
In Ghana the team announced that IR USA will be opening a new office in the country. The team was also invited to the home of Vice President John Mohammed, where Ayoub explained IR USA’s history and its work with international NGOs. Mohammed spoke of the challenges that Ghana faces, especially in strengthening its educational infrastructure. Ayoub said they looked forward to establishing the new field office in Ghana.

From Ghana, Ayoub and the IR USA teamtraveled to Mali where they began their time in Bamako and met with Country Director Abdelmagid Naciri, who heads Islamic Relief's Mali office. Naciri told the team that "Islamic Relief is the best NGO which understands the needs of the people and work closely with them." He encouraged IR USA to do more developmental relief work all over Mali.

Ayoub shared IR USA's strategies in Africa and said the relief organization is interested in doing more work in the fields of education and health, but that the team was there to listen to the Malians and study the needs of the country. Following the meeting with Naciri, Ayoub and Islamic Relief USA Development Coordinator Belkacem Nahi met with the IR staff working in Mali and fielded questions on how projects will be financed and how IR USA can develop a system to make funds available as soon as they are needed.

"I am very proud of the work that the Islamic Relief team is doing in Mali and inshallah we will support it in the best way possible," Ayoub said.

Ayoub and his team then met with Omar Ibrahima Toure, Mali's minster of health, who reiterated Mali's commitment to work closely with IR USA and his hopes for a growth in funding. Toure and Ayoub discussed the need for updated hospital equipment and medicines. Ayoub asked Toure if the Mali government can help IR USA by donating land or a building for a new hospital, to which the minister replied that he would form a team to work on this request and see if it was feasible.

Microcredit in Mali
One of the last stops for the IR USA team was at a house in the outskirts of Bamako to meet with the director of a widow’s microcredit program, where the mothers of former IR-sponsored orphans process nuts, peanut butter and ginger in small packets to sell in a local market. Ayoub was heartened by the work and encouraged the women to keep it up.

"It is so good to see the hard work of these women and what they are doing for their families. Inshallah IR USA is willing to help them more in their endeavors," Ayoub said. The program director said that in the eight years of the program, 350 women had benefitted from it and the entire cost of living for their families was covered from the revenue of the sales.

One of the beneficiaries of the program told Ayoub that the work had saved the life of her kids by allowing her to buy food and clothes for her family and save for their future education. "I say Jazak Allah Khair to the donors [of IR USA]," she said.

Islamic Relief USA will be blogging more about Ayoub and his team as they travel to the United Kingdom and Jordan. To help with Islamic Relief’s work in Ghana, Mali, and other areas, click here.

--Reporting by Belkacem Nahi

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Participating in 2010 InterAction Forum

Islamic Relief USA is at the 2010 InterAction Forum this week in Washington D.C., where we hosted a panel on the first day of programming. Haniya Dar, a regional program coordinator for Islamic Relief Worldwide, spoke on a panel with World Vision on "Distinctive Faith-Based Operational Approaches in Relief and Development: Case Studies from Islamic and Christian Agencies." Dar brings a depth of experience from her work in the "Horn of Africa" investigating financial and programmatic humanitarian issues and also serving as IRW’s donor and grant management liaison. She also is the acting director for IRW's Somalia field office.

This is IR USA's fourth year at the InterAction forum. Several other members of the IR USA team from its domestic and international programming, public affairs, volunteer, fund development, and communications departments are attending conference workshops and participating in networking activities. IR USA also has a booth at the InterAction forum this year.

Christina Tobias-Nahi, public affairs director at IR USA, said there is a wealth of knowledge to gain at the forum. "The [nongovernmental organizations] involved with InterAction collectively serve some of the world’s poorest people," she said. "There's lots for us to learn from our colleagues in the field and knowledge for us to share also from the work we do here at IR USA," she added.

With over 180 member organizations, InterAction is the largest coalition of U.S.-based international NGOs that focus on the poor "most vulnerable people" of the world and work "to end global poverty and deliver humanitarian aid in every developing country."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Islamic Relief Opening a New Office in Ghana

Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub and his team continue their trip through several African countries before departing to the United Kingdom and Jordan. Their time has been busy with visiting government officials, high schools, and Islamic Relief programs in the countries.

Ayoub and the IR USA team had a 45 minute meeting with Ghanaian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. al Haji Mohammed Mumuni, during which Ayoub discussed Islamic Relief USA’s plans to open an office in Ghana.

“We are so impressed with the government of Ghana for the freedom and peace it has provided its citizens,” Ayoub said. “We are hoping to help the education of Ghanaian children, especially girls, by establishing schools. We also want to develop the capacity of hospitals in the area by providing hospital supplies.”

Mumuni thanked Ayoub and IR USA for their work and spoke of the challenges that Ghana face because of the harsh conditions of the land. Mumuni said that he was among the minority who benefited from a good education, and that he wanted that for other children in Ghana. Ayoub presented Mumuni with an IR USA souvenir .

Ayoub, Islamic Relief Development Coordinator Belkacem Nahi, and others on their team also met with the Ministry of Education, who detailed the need to develop computer, biology and other laboratories in high schools and universities. And lastly the Islamic Relief team was invited to the home of Vice President John Mohammed, where Ayoub explained IR USA’s history and its work with international NGOs. Mohammed spoke of the challenges that Ghana faces, especially in strengthening its educational infrastructure.

Alhamdulillah we look forward to establishing our office in Ghana,” Ayoub said. “There is much that Islamic Relief can do here, and with the support of Ghana’s government, inshallah we will be able to help the people of this country in many ways.”

Islamic Relief will be blogging more about Ayoub and his team as they travel to other African countries, then the United Kingdom and Jordan. Check back tomorrow to hear about their time in Mali. To help with Islamic Relief’s work in Ghana, Mali, and other areas, click here.

--Reporting by Belkacem Nahi