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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day of Dignity in Dallas: Helping People Survive Another Day

The sun was blazing. But that didn't stop the hundreds of underserved and vulnerable locals from lining up hours before the gates opened at Dallas' Masjid al-Islam. Many of them were sweating, hungry and thirsty.

You could see the desperation in their eyes. Still, they waited patiently as scores of volunteers rushed around, readying hot plates, carefully arranging distribution stations, and laying out heaps of clothing in hopes of helping the less fortunate in their neighborhood.

With Ramadan in full swing, many of the volunteers were observing the daylong Ramadan fast and the scorching heat was audibly parching their throats. Their voices cracked when they spoke and many of them had dried saliva on their lips.

"I can't think of anything better to be doing on a fasting day," Nahida Ahmed told me. Ahmed, 28, was helping pass out food trays despite being hungry herself.

It was Islamic Relief USA's Day of Dignity – an event characterized by love, compassion and sacrifice. And volunteers flooded into the mosque at 8 a.m. to be apart of the event as if they were the ones benefiting.

For people in need, the warm meals, fresh fruit, socks, shirts, caps, hygiene kits, and all the other items available for distribution at the Day of Dignity are a beacon of hope. One less worry for mind plagued with the most difficult of stress: "Will I survive another day?"

"Every day is a challenge," 45-year-old Glenn Black told me as he munched on some rice and beef provided at the event. He balanced an Islamic Relief tote bag full of clothes between his knees. "I need these clothes because it's getting close to wintertime," he said. His skin was thick and calloused, probably from sleeping in the street.

Another beneficiary told me just how much events like the Day of Dignity impact his community. "It helps out the neighborhood a lot," Alfred Burney told me. “Especially the kids.”

The 54-year-old was impressed that Muslims were spearheading the cause. “I’m surprised that it’s Islamic Relief,” he said.

Dennye Mills, a 55-year-old toothless and homeless widow, was there for the fresh fruit because it was easier to eat than the food she was used to receiving at food banks. "God bless Islamic Relief," she said between bites.

"The need here is huge," said Islamic Relief USA’s Domestic Programs Coordinator, Karim Amin. Amin is a strong supporter of helping fellow Americans in need. "Islamic Relief USA organizes the Day of Dignity because you must help your neighbors first before you help people afar," he added.

After the event was over and the bustle died down, I made my way across the street and noticed that one of the beneficiaries had picked an abandoned building's front step to lay his head. With his arms sprawled beside him and his newly acquired shoes cordoning off his territory, I realized what was going on.

He probably couldn't sleep all night from hunger. Now with a nutritious meal in his stomach, the man could finally rest. It broke my heart to see his condition, but I was happy we could serve people like him. Without a Day of Dignity, he might have starved another day.

To learn more or to donate to Day of Dignity, click here.

-- Zeyad Maasarani

ABC News Report from Day of Dignity, Flint

Ramadan 2010: Giving to Those in Need is an Act of the Pious

Gifts, good food, friends and family are things we think about when Ramadan approaches. It is in this month that we find our tables full of food. Friends and family we hardly see throughout the year gather in one place and in the name of faith and brotherhood share a meal. It is in these times that we realize Ramadan is a gift from God, and the last ten days of this holy month is indeed a most blessed time – a time where we should focus even more on worship and giving.

A gift is a thing you give to others without expecting something in return. It is a selfless act, one that strengthens the bonds that bring people together. This is why the prophet said, "Give gifts to one another, and you will love one another. (Bukhari Manners #594)"

In this respect Ramadan is a celebration of humanity that reminds us we are not consumers. Instead, it tells us we are people with a spiritual compass that drives us to be more than who we are. A gift is a symbol and the impact that it leaves on others depends on how appropriate it is. Giving is itself a gift, and giving it to those most in need is the most appropriate gift of all -- an act of the pious:

God describes the most pious by saying in Sura al Baqara, "They spend out of love for Him on those close to them, the orphan and the needy. They spend on the wayfarer, and the beggar, and they free those in captivity from bondage. They are in constant prayer and they give as a responsibility charity. (2:177)"

It is important to give. It shows you care. It recognizes and acknowledges the value of others. More importantly, giving teaches us to think of others before ourselves. It is an act that reinforces feelings of love and compassion, even develops them towards those we may not know.

We are told to give and spend in the way of our lord so we may come to know God -- what greater gift is there than to know our creator? We have been given the opportunity to give and spend in the way of our Lord. The bounties of this giving benefit us in this world, but the best gift can we hope to receive is He who brings us near when we give.

-- Hasan Seirafi

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day of Dignity 2010: Philadelphia Slideshow

Home-Cooked Meals and More for Atlanta's Homeless and Needy at 'Day of Dignity'

A bright sun with blue skies and soft clouds was the backdrop throughout last Sunday as we visited sites in Atlanta, Georgia where Day of Dignity events took place. People gathered from all over Metro Atlanta looking to be of service on this day, dubbed the 'Day of Dignity' by Islamic Relief USA. Islamic Relief USA and Share Atlanta, supported by four local organizations, and a host of volunteers offered assistance to all who attended. This Day of Dignity would be unique in that events would take place at three different sites in Atlanta and one additional site in Clarkston.

The first location that we visited was teeming with activity by the time we arrived. People had already lined up and were receiving medical screenings and hot meals. Screenings were being done by a group of young medical professionals who chatted amicably with individuals who waited patiently for their turn at medical attention.

Volunteers directed peoples’ attention to another line where hot home-cooked meals were being dispensed. Many people took their food and, moving just out of the way of foot-traffic, sat on the sidewalk and took their time eating what they had received.

As all of this took place, haircuts were being given to those who wanted to spruce up their appearance. People kept coming to the area where the event was being staged, on Broad Street, just minutes away from the Georgia Dome. This was a rare opportunity for people to receive meals, free haircuts, personal items and medical attention, at no cost to them, all in the same place.

Not far away, a site had been established where a completely different population of people was receiving similar care and treatment. Recipients showed their appreciation with a nod of the head, a smile, and a thank you or just by the way they savored the meals which they had received. The third site had completed their work by the time we arrived, but many people who had benefited from the distribution still lingered. They were consuming their food, looking through the items they had received, all the while attempting to find shade from a sun whose heat was growing in intensity.

We arrived at the last location, Clarkston, before the event was scheduled to start. From an initial gathering of 4, at least 75 volunteers, quickly assembled and equally as fast, transformed a small area of a large apartment complex into the staging area for what was to be the day’s last Day of Dignity event. In apt anticipation of what was to take place, children, parents and those without children, but obviously in need, formed a cheerful, talkative, yet orderly line ready to receive whatever was being provided. Bags were filled with school supplies, hygiene kits, towels and other items which had been generously donated. Warm meals were provided and medical screenings where available to those who wanted to take advantage of their offering.
Day of Dignity activities are intended to provide struggling Americans with basic services like medical screenings, in addition to hot meals and aid parcels filled with blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, and other necessities. The program is designed to encourage service to others.

Islamic Relief USA is especially grateful to the all of the organizations who support Day of Dignity activities across the country and to the host of volunteers who constitute the workforce who carry out the actual activities from city to city. We know that for many, this event is a part of greater service that those volunteers do throughout the year. Please consider replicating this event in your locality.

--Saleem Khalid, Islamic Relief USA Domestic Programs Manager

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Voice for Flood Victims: Anwar Khan Leaves Pakistan to Begin "Real Job"

I am leaving Pakistan with a heavy heart. I have seen much devastation and misery in a relatively short time. I came to observe the distribution and the situation on the ground, but now my real job begins: to speak for all those people whose cries for help have not been heard.

I understand people's concerns about aid not reaching beneficiaries and their feelings about financial corruption. As we continue asking these questions, aid that should have arrived weeks ago has not even been sent. As we wait, children are dying from malnutrition and diarrhea.

It's never easy or simple to get aid to the people who need it most, but Islamic Relief has already helped more than 100,000 people affected by the floods. At press conferences and via any medium I can communicate through, I am encouraging people to give. Give to an organization you trust. There are organizations that have reputable track records in Pakistan and Islamic Relief USA is one of them.

We are in a race against time to reduce the number of people who will die from malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and cholera. Young, already malnourished children are the most at risk. And the most critical time to save lives is now.

Please donate now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day of Dignity in Philadelphia: A Time for Unity

The young veiled woman handed a Day of Dignity flyer to the homeless man standing in front of her. He looked down at the flyer and noticed the event location. “I used to live right by there,” he said. “I lived on the church steps at 21st and Chestnut.” Monika Nagpal was devastated to hear this, “because he referred to his home as a set of steps,” she said. Nagpal tirelessly served as coordinator of Islamic Relief USA’s Day of Dignity in Philadelphia this past Sunday.

Outside the gated doors of First Unitarian Church, in the heart of the city, hundreds of homeless and impoverished people filed into the church pews and stood in a line running outside and around the block to receive bags, ponchos, hygiene items, blankets, clothing, toiletries, medical, dental and vision screenings and food, all served by over 100 volunteers with warm smiles and kind greetings. Many volunteers were devout Muslims who were also fasting amid the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Philadelphia’s Day of Dignity was a joint collaboration between Islamic Relief USA, the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Fixing Philly, United Muslim Foundation, Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and First Unitarian Church.

Shirleen, an elderly aid beneficiary, was seated in one of the church’s pews just before aid distribution began. She talked about people of different faiths coming together to help out the needy in their community: “It’s a good thing,” said Shirleen. “We’re all united as one.”

Read the rest of this blog post here.

-- Muneeza Tahir

Islamic Relief's Anwar Khan Travels to Remote Flood-Affected Villages in Punjab

The journey to Multan took eight hours due to flooded roads. On the way, we saw roads washed away, villages destroyed and many people camping on the side of the road. There was more flooding here in Punjab than we had seen earlier in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, where flooding originally began over three weeks ago.

On Sunday, we departed Multan early in the morning to escape the extreme heat of the afternoon. As we drove to Muzaffargarh, the water levels steadily rose. For much of the journey we were driving slowly through water. What appeared to be a series of lakes was actually the main road. Roads have been washed away, bridges knocked out and villages submerged.

Islamic Relief is supporting five to six camps in the area, housing approximately 6,000 displaced people. The locals told us that Tylenol was the only medicine available and was being given for any ailment. Men were walking through neck-high standing water to “cross the river” to their destroyed homes and see if they could salvage anything.

Children were drinking disease-inducing contaminated water. A four-month-old baby was being washed in the same brown contaminated water. When we asked the mother why she was doing that, she told us she had no other source of water.

Nearing Shagar village, the road was so flooded we could no longer drive, so we took a boat. We passed by rooftops of submerged buildings and homes. Businesses were destroyed and the inventories had been washed away. Crops were destroyed; the contaminated water will create agricultural problems for future seasons.

We traveled to further remote areas to distribute hygiene kits, kitchen sets and household sets to displaced people who had registered with Islamic Relief. A few elderly women, who had arrived at the camp after our initial tent distribution, were frustrated with us for distributing hygiene kits when they had not yet received tents.

Word had spread about the camp, but we did not have enough supplies for the new arrivals.

Waiting Weeks for Help
Remote villages are still in dire need of food. Some have been waiting for weeks and if they don’t get food soon, the situation may get out of control. The aid effort cannot cope with so many people in such a huge geographical area.

In the blazing heat, we were fasting out of choice, but many people there had no choice; they had no food.

I returned to Lahore with a heavy heart. It took a day and a half by road, boat and by foot to reach these people. Not enough people are making that journey; many more need to.

Press Conference with Cricketers
On Monday, I traveled to Karachi to attend a press conference about Islamic Relief’s response to the floods in Pakistan. The press conference was organized by Pakistani cricketers to raise awareness of the need for aid in flood-devastated areas.

Many questions were asked about the lack of trust many donors have that their donations will actually reach those in need. We tried to address their concerns and remind them about the great need for bringing relief to flood victims.

Act now to save lives.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pakistani Cricketers join Anwar Khan's Journey to Flood-Devastated Areas

Anwar Khan, Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Fund Development, is in Pakistan helping with relief efforts to provide aid and support to victims of the devastating floods. He set off from Dallas, Texas one week ago. Get live updates via @AnwarKhan_IRUSA on Twitter.

Shortly after my arrival in Pakistan, I met up with some personalities in Karachi, Pakistan to help with Islamic Relief's flood relief efforts. People in Karachi have not been affected by the floods, but evacuees are arriving on the outskirts of the city. Pakistani cricket player Younus Khan and retired cricketer Salahuddin Ahmed accompanied Haris Khan and I to Islamabad.

Early Friday morning, we set off for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and arrived a few hours later in Londa, Charsaddah – a rural village that was decimated by the floods in one of the earliest areas to be flooded when torrential rains commenced over three weeks ago. Islamic Relief has provided tents, clean water, water cans, kitchen sets, blankets and other items to affected families here. Many people lost their homes and their belongings, yet they were overjoyed at meeting Younus Khan. They felt they were being ignored by the world and were happy to see that not everyone had forgotten them.

The people in the village had been receiving cooked suhur and iftar. The men were trying to rebuild their homes during the days and returning to the tents at night to be with their families.

We were concerned about waterborne diseases and were encouraging people to take their tents to drier land for their own safety.

There was a commotion in the campsite caused by a man with a wad of money he had come to distribute. A mob was forming around him and he was followed around the camp. I could see the frustration on his face. We asked him to leave for his own safety otherwise the situation could have gotten out of control. People walking around distributing money have been assaulted due to the sheer desperation.

Sabara in Charsaddah was our next stop. A team of Islamic Relief volunteers had already assessed the needs of each household in Sabara. On our arrival, an aid distribution truck was waiting for us and we spent several hours unloading and distributing food, kitchen sets, blankets and other items to preselected beneficiaries.

The temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and we were fasting. The sweat was not dripping, but flowing off our faces, yet no one from our team complained. We could see destruction all around us and most people waited patiently for hours for their supplies. As we were about to finish distribution, some women from a neighboring village approached us and asked why we had not distributed supplies in their village.

They had not received any aid in three weeks.

Even though we are doing many distributions across the country, it is not enough. Islamic Relief is helping tens of thousands of people, but there are at least 20 million in need.

I noticed there were no aid convoys on the roads, as there were in the 2005 earthquake. There are so many people in such a large area that even if some aid is arriving it is hardly noticed.

A massive effort is needed.

Our last distribution was an hour away in Zara Mena, Nowshera, another remote village. They had not received any aid from any organization except Islamic Relief. A local representative wanted to express his appreciation for the support Islamic Relief had offered his village, when no one else had.

We distributed plastic sheeting, tarps, detergent, mosquito nets, blankets, water cans and water coolers in Zara Mena. Food given to the villagers by Islamic Relief was allowing them to eat. Younus Khan, Haris Khan and Salahuddin Ahmed, who had not complained the whole day despite working tirelessly in the heat distributing supplies, were deeply affected by the devastation.

When I finally reached Islamabad that night, I was able to eat knowing that several hundred families would also be eating from the distributions we were involved in. It made the meal easier.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Aid Equals Big Problems: Diminishing aid and supplies worsening situation in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas

Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Programs, Adnan Ansari, is in Pakistan helping with aid efforts and surveying the needs of flood victims.

Pakistan’s disastrous floods have affected more people than the 2004 tsunami, 2005 Pakistan earthquake and this year’s Haiti earthquake combined. They have brought with them threats of diseases, including acute respiratory infection, scabies, diarrhea, cholera, and malaria – to what extent, we cannot even determine yet. They have destroyed lives, property and livelihood. But worst of all, they have garnered little international attention and subsequently been met with rapidly-diminishing aid.

I’m currently in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where I originally arrived to assess flood damage in Neelam Valley, an area of beautiful landscapes set along the Neelam River; now, all roads to the valley are blocked off due to landslides and relief aid can’t reach the people who live there. Traveling north along Jhelum River to arrive here, I saw many obstructed roads – some that had just been rebuilt after the earthquake of 2005.

This isn’t the first time my trip was cancelled to effects of the aftermath of flooding: I was planning to go to Sibi, Balochistan a few days ago to assess Islamic Relief’s efforts in the area, but my trip was cancelled due to security reasons preventing non-nationals from entering the province. Due to a lack of aid and supplies, security is becoming a major issue. In many places where aid distributions are occurring, riots are breaking out because the amount of aid is so little and goods, inaccessible.

The scope of flooding effects is much greater than originally anticipated. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with whom I met recently, around 10 million people aren’t being provided any food or clean water. At least two million people are homeless, but food and shelter are becoming secondary concerns as water, sanitation and healthcare create more chronic and pressing issues.

According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, many dams around the country are reaching full capacity; any further rain could cause greater flooding if a dam overflows or worse if it breaks. Rains are still occurring and another wave of heavy rain is anticipated in Sindh.

Punjab has now become the province worst-affected by flooding. According to OCHA, 3.1 million people in Punjab are in dire need of assistance.

The numbers affected are continuing to increase and the situation is continuing to deteriorate. Your support is critical to the survival of millions of people in Pakistan.

A Young Girl's Gift to Flood-Devastated Pakistan

Five-year-old Zaynab Khan stopped by the Islamic Relief USA office in Buena Park, CA to drop off a special gift for flood victims in Pakistan. Read her story of giving as told by her mother, Fadia.

"Mimi, I just saw some people in Pakistan swimming in water and it looks not so clean. It's a little bit brown. Actually, it's really brown."

Zaynab wakes up every morning and tells me about her dreams, typically consisting of princesses, glitter, the color pink and sliding down rainbows. This morning, however, she stood behind me in the kitchen in her pajamas looking a bit confused.

I found out she had recently seen images of the floods in Pakistan on the computer with her dad. My husband and I are so used to seeing images of devastation and terror that we have become desensitized. Children, however, are still innocent. My daughter could not fathom such things. She asked why the water was so brown and why it was everywhere. She saw a man grasping his two children and swimming with a terrified look on his face and asked why the people couldn't just move and buy a new home and new clothes. Because she has visited Pakistan in the past, she asked if all my relatives she had met were okay. And then she asked, "What can we do?"

I told her there are two things we can do: pray for the people suffering and then help in whatever way we can. She offered to send some of her toys, jewelry and nail polish to the displaced children. I explained that it would be better to send money so that they can buy food, medicine and clothing. I then told her to go upstairs and pick out her clothes for the day and wait for me to come upstairs and bathe her.

A few minutes later, Zaynab came back downstairs still in her pajamas, hair disheveled, with a pink velcro Disney princesses wallet she got from Disneyland. She opened it and began to count her life-savings. It included money accumulated for losing teeth and visits to her adoring grandparents: a grand total of $107. She held the money in her pudgy hands and said, "I think I want to give this to Pakistan." She said she wanted to give it all.

I tried to contain my tears. My heart was bursting with both pride and shame as I saw my five- year-old daughter write a letter in red crayon to the flood victims. I was proud because here was my daughter who gave everything she had saved to people in need without flinching. She did not hesitate for a second to think about the things she had wanted to buy. I had told her before that when you give money to needy people, Allah will send you more than what you gave. I was ashamed because I had not emptied out my wallet the same way Zaynab had.

As adults we always find excuses: the government is corrupt, the money won't go where it is supposed to, I can't give so much because I need to buy X,Y,Z, I don't know where to send it, I will do it later. For Zaynab it was so easy. She saw an image, she took out her money and she asked how she could get it to Pakistan. When I told her we would give it to Islamic Relief and they would take it over there, she wrote a letter. It said:

"For Pakistan. There is floods in Pakistan. I hope this helps."

She then proceeded to draw colorful hearts and flowers. I was reminded of the words of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

Though she couldn't comprehend the disparity in lifestyles (most of us cannot), Zaynab wanted the people of Pakistan to have the girly things she loved. She drafted her letter with drawings she loved, and finally, she sealed it with stickers she loved.

Why do we morally degenerate as we grow older? Why do we become so cynical and desensitized? The first lesson that children learn in school is to share, and it is the first lesson we forget as we graduate school. As we grow up, we are told to stop behaving like children, but it is these childlike qualities that make the best of humans.

Click here to help flood victims.

IR USA's Anwar Khan Travels to Pakistan to Help Flood Victims

Anwar Khan, Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Fund Development, is in Pakistan helping with IR USA’s efforts to provide aid and support to victims of the devastating floods. He set off from Dallas on Monday. Check back to this blog to read his updates.

I have done this trip many times before, but never in Ramadan, when I was fasting. There have been several disasters in Pakistan in the last few years: The 2005 earthquake, the floods of 2007, the Swat conflict in 2009, and now the worst floods in Pakistan in more than 80 years.

According to the United Nations, the floods are causing more devastation in Pakistan than the South Asian tsunami in 2004, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and this year’s Haiti earthquake combined. However it has barely been mentioned in the media, and U.S. and international support is far less this time than for the other three disasters. (But the U.S. has provided the most aid to Pakistan flood victims than any other country in the world.)

As I am travelling to Pakistan, I wonder what this says about the world’s response and how it will affect those suffering in Pakistan. Millions have fled their homes and the UN is warning of cholera and other epidemics. I will see for myself what the tragedy has done to men, women and children. Twenty million people have been affected, but each person has their own story, their own struggle. The world needs to know what is happening and what they can do to help.

Act now to save lives.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Seeks Interns for Fall Program

Islamic Relief USA is seeking applicants for its fall internship program, starting on September 1st and ending on December 1, 2010. Last summer IR USA launched its first internship program. Applications came in from students nationwide as well as overseas from countries like Finland and Egypt.

Bushra Nusairat who was an intern last summer and is now an international programs associate with Islamic Relief USA, says it was an invaluable experience:

"My work with Islamic Relief’s International Programs Division exposed me to the various elements of international development work. From monitoring security situations in volatile regions where IR works to engaging and creating partnerships with local NGOs to lobbying members of Congress for increased funding; my internship was an exciting experience that allowed me to understand the scope of the work we engage in.

I hope that the future interns of Islamic Relief take on the projects that they work on as their own, furthering and perfecting their work beyond the hours they work behind their desks, and moving and inspiring others to do the same."
Positions for the fall internship program will be in Virginia and New Jersey offices and include:

  • Legal Intern
  • Public Affairs Intern
  • Communications Intern
  • Domestic Programs Intern
  • Information Technology Intern
  • International Programs Intern
Please send your resume to

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Google Featuring Islamic Relief on Pakistan Floods Crisis Reponse Page

The world’s biggest search engine, Google, has featured Islamic Relief as an organization to support in the wake of the worst flooding in Pakistan’s recorded history.

Only two organizations were featured on the page.

Visit Google’s Pakistan Floods Crisis Response page for more information. To learn more about Islamic Relief’s response to the Pakistan Floods Emergency, click here.

More than 20 million people have been affected by the floods and in desperate need for aid.

Act now to save lives. Donate today.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Power to End Hunger is in Your Hands

In the Holy Month of Ramadan, 1.2 billion Muslims all over the world anticipate the sunrise, so they can feed their bodies and prepare for a day of fast: a day marked by patience, prayer, sacrifice, and hunger. To me these days of fasting are a physical and spiritual reminder of the billion that suffer the indignity of hunger, deprivation and malnutrition.

Day-in and day-out, sunrise to sunset, more than 1 billion people in our world face hunger. While it takes 19 cents to feed a hungry child, every five seconds a child dies of hunger. In the richest country in the world, nearly 50 million of our neighbors – 17 million children – struggle to put food on the table during the month. This is our reality, but if we act, it does not have to be.

To me, one of the most powerful lessons of Ramadan is that we must always strive to make our world a caring world. The only way to make our efforts count is to work together as people of all faiths and communities.

That is way I am thrilled the Alliance to End Hunger has teamed up with ONE and Islamic Relief USA for the second straight year to publish the Ramadan Action Guide: a resource to help Muslim communities to share with others, through concrete action, Ramadan’s lessons of solidarity with those who are poor. The guide contains many steps you can take in your community to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

READ, REFLECT, and ACT. The power to end hunger is in our hands.

--Ambassador Tony Hall, Managing Director of the Alliance to End Hunger and Member of Congress (D-OH), Retired

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak from all our Islamic Relief USA Offices

Ramadan Mubarak! Check out this gallery for photos and messages from all our Islamic Relief USA offices.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pakistan Floods: Ramadan Begins, But Situation is Dire

Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Programs, Adnan Ansari, is in Pakistan helping with the aid efforts and surveying the needs of the flood victims.

Thursday August 12, 2010

"Ramadan is full of joyous fasts, and nights of worship with family and friends. But this year, it is a different situation for millions of people affected by the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history … and it’s not over yet."

As I sit here typing, we’re experiencing a three-day lull in torrential downpours that have warped a large mass of Pakistan’s land into a body of water. This disaster-in-progress is set to continue when rain and further flooding return later this week, throwing many more people into further poverty.

Uncertainty is everywhere here: Floods that seemed to recede one day returned with vengeance the next; villages that were standing one day were under water the next; and relief organizations that came to provide emergency aid are rapidly running out of supplies.

I crossed over a bridge a few days ago and saw a massive field of crops underneath and on either side. I crossed over the same bridge the next day and all I saw was water. Throughout Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in parts of Punjab and Sindh, flooding has washed away infrastructure that will take years to rebuild.

Driving through the villages of Charsada in the aftermath of flooding, all I saw left standing were doors that once belonged to villagers’ homes. A man was standing beside what was left of his home and I asked him what his livelihood was. He pointed towards an area that once housed a field of crops; it was now a bed of water.

Looking past the village destruction to the large quantity of water beyond, it’s hard to tell where this body of water starts and where it ends. It had taken everything these villagers had and spared only their lives – for those who survived.

I’ve travelled through flood-affected areas with Islamic Relief staff members to deliver food, hygiene kits and other emergency aid items to flood victims. I’ve been receiving requests from people all across the country who want to travel with us to affected areas to help the victims and aid in recovery efforts.

Islamic Relief is known to enter areas where other nonprofit organizations and non-governmental agencies don’t, but how can I let these volunteers enter wet terrains that have even stranded the staff and I during a village rescue mission in Nowshera District?

Our supplies are running low and today is the first day of Ramadan. There’s no firewood for people to cook food on, not even kitchen utensils to cook with. The camps are getting fuller by the day with tents packed full of flood victims. All I can think about is how we will provide what bare minimum support we have to reach the maximum number of people. The situation is dire.

Please act now to help save lives.

--Adnan Ansari, Vice President of Programs, Islamic Relief USA

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ramadan 2010: Why Giving is a Gift

Many Muslims look upon the holy month of Ramadan as a time of spiritual growth, oneness with Allah (SWT), and a time to give up bad habits and take on new good habits. It’s a time when whatever good deed we perform, each prayer we do, each time we give back, and each time we remember Allah, we will insh’Allah gain 70 times the amount of reward for it.

We are encouraged to give in Ramadan. Give zakah and give wherever we can. Volunteer, donate to a good cause, help someone -- because giving is a gift. Being able to give back to those in need is a gift for us, for through our giving we can insha’Allah obtain spiritual reward.

Upon reflecting on these principles of Ramadan, we at Islamic Relief USA felt that the theme of “Giving is a Gift” was fitting for this year. We’ve seen great suffering and need in disasters like the Haiti earthquake, the continuing Gaza crisis, and the Pakistan floods, and we’ve seen the great need for help here in the United States through our Day of Dignity events. We realize that it is a blessing for us and our donors to be able to raise money, reach out, create programs, and provide help where it is needed most.

The Holy Qur’an says, "Those who give to charity night and day, secretly and publicly, receive their recompense from their Lord; they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. (2:274)"
The Holy Qur’an, also says, "They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: 'Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travellers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.' (2:215 )"
The emphasis on charity and giving in Islam is seen throughout the Qur’an and in hadith. For that matter, charity and helping those in need goes beyond Islam: It is a moral principle shared by many faiths. If you are in the position to give, then please give back. It is a gift to be able to give.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If I had (a mountain of) gold, I would love that, before three days had passed, not a single (coin) thereof remained with me if I found somebody to accept it (as charity), excluding some amount that I would keep for the payment of my debts." - Sahih Al-Bukhari.
We would like to wish you a blessed Ramadan. Please check out our blog during Ramadan to hear more giving stories from people like you. We here at Islamic Relief USA appreciate all you do, and we appreciate your support of our efforts to give back to those in need. Indeed, giving is a gift, and we hope you choose to give and receive that gift.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Amidst Pakistan's Flood Devastation, Hope Remains

Islamic Relief USA’s Vice President of Programs, Adnan Ansari, is in Pakistan helping with the aid efforts and surveying the needs of the flood victims.

Friday August 6, 2010

The floods have spared no one. Rich and poor, young and old— the torrential rains and the resulting landslides have taken millions of Pakistanis by surprise, no matter what part of town they lived in.

Everywhere I went, I saw hardship written on the faces of the people. But I also saw hope and gratitude in their eyes. It was also on their tongues.

Despite the long lines, dwindling supplies and difficulties on the ground, everyone I talked to was thankful. Not only to Islamic Relief, but they were also grateful to Allah for saving their lives.

A group of Islamic Relief emergency responders from around the world (I am the U.S. representative in the team) and I were supporting Islamic Relief Pakistan staff members working tirelessly from the Islamabad office.

Today we helped distribute hygiene kits in a campsite near Pir Sabaq, a village north of Mardan. In the camp, I saw people waiting in long lines waiting for supplies to be distributed, old women sitting on the ground with despair written on their faces, people praying on the grass with the confidence that ease follows hardship and children caring for their younger siblings. The storms were an instant maturing process for many of them, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it scarred them for life. I couldn’t imagine dealing with such a disaster at their young age. But they were displaying poise and patience that I found very praiseworthy.

Most were farmers who saw their months’ efforts in the crops ready for harvest being washed away overnight. “Normally we can have two crops each year but our first crop is now gone and the soil is no longer suitable for us sowing for the second. All we can do is wait for the spring to arrive to start tilling the soil again.” This was a common message we received from many. There is no other means of income for them.

Several of the camp residents were also very educated and in the prime of their youth. One of the victims I talked to was a Master’s candidate in Forestry, who had completed his research and was about to submit his thesis paper. The floods swept everything away, and all he can do now is wait and see if he can salvage the six months’ work put into the thesis from his laptop, but he doesn’t know for sure. Another eloquently kept explaining the situation caused by the flood in the words of Allama Iqbal’s poetry.

Outside the camps, many people were staying put in their villages, despite their homes being destroyed and the roads being cut off. “This is all we have left,” one of the victims who stayed home (which had no walls left) told me. “I can’t risk leaving my belongings unattended.”

People’s dreams were hit hard by the floods. But their ability to overcome the hardship is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Still I wonder how long they can hold up.

Supplies really are getting low, and the people need our help. I hope everyone can dig deep in this time of need and support them.

--Adnan Ansari, Vice President of Programs, Islamic Relief USA

Act now to save lives. Donate today.

To read more about Islamic Relief’s response in Pakistan, click here.

Gallery: Devastation from Pakistan Floods

Learn more about the situation in Pakistan here, and please donate to help the more than four million people affected by the floods in Pakistan.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gallery: Floods in Pakistan

More than 3 million have been affected by the flooding in Pakistan. Visit our emergency page for more information. Your help is desperately needed. Please donate.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Video: Islamic Relief Heading to Pakistan Flood Areas

Islamic Relief's Habib Malik from Scotland is in Pakistan now heading to the north west regions where floods have devestated more than 1 million. Learn more about Islamic Relief's emergency campaign to help flood victims, and please donate generously.