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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Aiding Alabama

On April 27, some 150 tornadoes tore through six southern U.S. states, decimating communities and destroying lives. More than 230 people died in Alabama—the hardest-hit state.

In cities across Alabama, damage estimates range from millions to billions of dollars. Birmingham’s mayor William Bell suggests that removing debris may cost some $10 million while insured losses are expected to exceed $2 billion.

Islamic Relief USA was quick to respond to calls for relief efforts in the aftermath of the April tornadoes. Within days, the IRUSA team was on the ground in Alabama.

IRUSA has been working closely with American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and community and faith-based groups to get resources to survivors as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Here are some of the ways IRUSA team members have helped provide aid:

  • Visiting sites to assess damage
  • Staffing health clinics
  • Operating emergency response vehicles
  • Providing situational reports
  • Providing support to the American Red Cross' staff services, partner services, finance, and mental health services, and its Integrated Care Team.
  • Operating shelters, and providing shelter services, including cleaning, dormitory patrol, child care, front-desk support, answering phones, and setting up cots.
  • Assisting at federal sites
  • Operating preliminary data assessment devices
  • Distributing blankets, clothing, food to survivors
  • Interviewing survivors to assess needs
  • Conferring with other relief organization on best practices and innovative ways to serve survivors and assist with clean-up efforts
  • Connecting the Alabama governor’s office with a real estate agent to help secure temporary housing for displaced survivors
  • Giving toys to children to help create a sense of normalcy for them
  • Advising mosque congregations on how to respond to emergencies; garner supplies and distribute resources to survivors in their areas

IRUSA’s Miriam Soliman said, “We went to the Birmingham Islamic Center and were warmly welcomed by the community. We later connected another Muslim community—the Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa, which has a small distribution center—with B.I.C. and its local thrift store.” This is just one example of how IRUSA and the local Muslim communities worked together to help relief efforts.

But IRUSA’s efforts have extended well beyond Alabama’s Muslim population—and were recognized by many locals, including priest Jack Hinnen from Riverchase United Methodist Church in Bessemer. Jack sent a warm note, thanking IRUSA for its efforts in Alabama—he mentioned that he wanted to buy coffee for the volunteers, but couldn't do so in time, so he made a donation toward's IRUSA's work instead.

IRUSA's efforts were also documented in "Religious Relief for Southern Disasters,” an article on, one of the nation’s top blog sites.

Perhaps most important, however, are the connections IRUSA has made with survivors and other volunteers, such as Jefferson Traywick. Jefferson, an American Red Cross volunteer working in Alabama, posted this on IRUSA’s Facebook page:

"As a local Red Cross volunteer from Alabama, I just want to publicly acknowledge the great contributions your volunteers have made down here. I spent the day yesterday with five IR workers doing damage assessment in rural parts of the state and helping unload a tractor trailer load of supplies in Alexander City. The IR volunteers worked hard and were an absolute pleasure. Thank you all!"

IRUSA has been using every minute it can to provide assistance. An example: the IRUSA team arrived early for a day to be dedicated to survivor interviews—while waiting for the drivers who would take them to the work sites, team members fulfilled a request from the American Red Cross to help with an administrative task.

"IRUSA is gaining a reputation for filling any need requested,” says IRUSA’s W. Derrick Lea, “And we will continue to serve in this manner."

Thank you for your continued support toward our efforts in Alabama. To help us help more, donate to our USA Emergency fund.

And please remember to pray for the victims, survivors and relief workers in Alabama.

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