ICNA Relief Massachusetts and BU Dental Students Reunite For Second Week To Distribute Dental Kits in Honor of Deah, Yusor and Razan
ICNA Relief MA in collaboration with students from Boston University (BU) School of Dentistry conducted a Dental Kit Distribution in memory of Deah Barakat for a second week in a row. Over 300 Dental Kits were distributed at Masjid Alhumdilillah during their monthly food distribution serving roughly 250 families each month. Masjid Alhumdilillah is one of the oldest Islamic Centers in the Boston area and is situated in an impoverished community. The Dental Kits were a welcomed, unexpected addition to food packages recipients received.
One local area resident, an older Latino woman asked about free dental care which the students from BU were able to refer her too. She stated she was truly blessed this day, explaining she had broken her dentures but could not afford a new pair.
ICNA Relief MA along with BU, Mercy to Mankind and the Islamic Society of Boston collected 2809 Dental Kits which have been distributed among the most needy in our communities. Amr Aly said “As a Dental Student I was truly devastated by the Chapel Hill murders and felt so fortunate to live out Deah Barakat’s legacy by serving those in need and what better way than by distributing Dental Kits.”
ICNA Relief Massachusetts Distributes Dental Kits At Soup Kitchen with Help from Boston University Dental Students
On April 5th, ICNA Relief Boston partnered with BU Dental School MSA volunteers to distribute dental kits at the Haley House located on Dartmouth Street in Boston. Haley House is a soup kitchen that serves the homeless population in the Boston area. We partnered with the Dental School MSA to extend the mercy and intention of Deah Barakat who spent his final days serving the community. As a tribute to his memory as well as his beloved wife, Yusor, and her sister Razan, we spent our morning in service of the displaced.
The atmosphere of Haley House is one of humility. The clients and staff stand on equal footing when they are in this space. The lines between class and economic privilege blur here as both groups interact and begin to know one another. While in conversation with one of the clients, Ariz Saleem, community organizer for ICNA Relief in Boston, recalled some inspirational words. “When you beg, you make angels out of people. It's better to beg than steal. It's better to work than beg.” Ariz shared his takeaway from these words. “The beauty of what my brother stated lies in the personal meaning he was able to forge from the difficult moments of his life.” This is the kind of mutual love and understanding that permeates the atmosphere of the haley house.
This principle of humility is well practiced and lived out by this wonderful organization. ICNA Relief was proud to be a partner. The BU Dental School also enjoyed the experience as well as the chance to give back. Amr Aly shared his feelings. “Lending a helping hand to the community, and to those in need, is an integral part of our mission within the Muslim Student Association at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine. Having the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give back to the community is a gift within itself, bringing about a sense of unity between Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
Good Food, Dental Kits, and Mutual Respect were the gifts the mercy and memory of Deah and his Beloved ones brought to our staff and supporters. A Special thank you to Haley House and Boston University Dental School!
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One-on-one with ICNA Relief Chicago and Aliyah Banister, Dept. Head Muslim Family Services
Aliyah Banister is a licensed therapist specializing in the Muslim American population. She currently works as the social-emotional counselor for Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park, IL and is the head of the counseling department at ICNA Muslim Family Services in Glendale Heights, IL. Her Master’s degree, from University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, focuses on clinical social work with an emphasis on marriage, family, and children. Ms. Banister takes a faith-based approach to mental health, citing that many answers to our daily concerns can be found in the Quran and Sunnah.
“Life changes can sock us in the stomach. In my experience, a person can be doing all the right things, come from an affluent family, be well educated, have good tarbiyah at home, basically be set up for success, but may still have serious concerns they need help with. When you ask for help, and make moves to better your life, that actually is to be applauded and admired, rather than stigmatized. At least you know when you are in a rut and have the courage to ask for help to get out of it. One of our weaknesses, as a community, is our tendency to judge others, and ourselves, by our mistakes or behavior.
Whether it’s relationship issues, cultural concerns, identity issues, premarital counseling or creating programming for community members, every interaction with the community, especially the youth, is a blessing. This job has taught me one thing. That Allah (swt) doesn’t discriminate in the trials he gives. Bad things can happen to anyone. We try our best, but the results are up to Allah (swt).
Making a positive difference by helping others is a Sadaqa Jariyah. Helping His ummah is a form of dawah. I love ICNA Relief because besides counseling, there is also the social work aspect. Not only can we help clients with social-emotional-spiritual concerns, we can also help them with emergency assistance, food, shelter, clothing and more. People, in dire straits, need help on so many levels and its amazing to be able to offer that.”
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Women's Shelters Director Holds Nurturing Healthy Families Workshop in Illinois
Respect and responsibility, love and mercy - these qualities form the bedrock of healthy relationships whether between parents and children, or between spouses. Speaking at the Islamic Center of Wheaton (ICW), Sr. Malika MacDonald provided audiences with insights on a broad range of topics from marital harmony to preventing child abuse.
“A healthy match is two people coming together with the understanding that they are two different individuals. We honor, trust, respect, accept and care for our friends, in spite of our differences. These are the aspects of friendship we should bring to our marriages. A happy marriage needs a solid foundation and continuous care to grow and flourish,” said Sister Malika MacDonald.
Sister Malika also spoke on preventing child abuse - an important topic that most Muslims are reluctant to discuss. Defining child neglect as “maltreatment related to the failure to provide needed, age-appropriate care of minor children”, she said that children are often victims of domestic abuse. Child abuse takes on many forms including; physical, emotional and sexual. The perpetrator of such abuse may be a relative, a trusted family friend, a community leader or a stranger.
She stressed the importance of empowering children to protect themselves and seek help. “Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old, teaching them the actual names of their private parts. Let them know of the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched and by whom. Teach them, and respect, their right to control their bodies and that no one should physically hurt them, especially in their private parts,” she added. “Talk to your kids about unwanted advances, even from trusted older adults.” Given that predators often tell children that the act is “a secret” between just the two of them, Sr. Malika said it was necessary to explain to your child that a secret is still a secret when shared with the parents.
“One of the most important things parents can do is encourage children to trust their gut around their safety. As vital is telling them that you will believe them if they tell you someone is hurting them and, finally, make sure you actually tell your kids that they won’t be in trouble if they come to you. ” Parents often assume children feel safe coming to them with a concern, but assumptions can be costly.
Urging attendees to consider these conversations as act of care and concern, rather than an awkward moment, she said, “Frame the conversation for yourself as a way of loving your child.”
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Gutting Out Hope in Michigan
By Ariz Saleem
Felesha Reynolds is a woman of courage. She is a mother of two boys, one 4-year-old and the other 12 years of age. Felesha was generous enough to share her story with us. She lives in Redford, Michigan about a mile away from Detroit. She is 34-years-old now and owns a home that has been severely damaged from a recent flood which impacted the area in August of 2014.
Her story begins when she bought her house in Michigan. She was settling in and getting prepared for a new life ahead for herself and her children. It must have been a relief and a moment of pride to know that she had come to own her own property. By Grace, she had advanced to the next level in life.
Little did she know that she would be taking a step backwards on this journey of life, but perhaps, in spiritual terms, yet another step forward.
Before the house was set up to Felesha's contentment, the flood struck devastating the roof and flooding the entire house. At first, she thought the damage was not very extensive, only to find out later that it was indeed a tragedy that would be difficult to bounce back from. Mold had begun to form and soon spread throughout the house. It infected the furniture, floor, and structural elements of the house. On describing the hardwood floor, Felesha commented, “It's like a wave.” No longer habitable,
Felesha took her two sons and left for her mother's place. The flood hit seven months ago. Today, Feleshais still bouncing between her friend's house and her mother's house. “Being injured and on a one person income is difficult,” Felesha commented. She currently supports herself and her two sons with the Social Security income she receives from the government.
Felesha related a story where she paid someone to fix some of the damages. After doing some work on the house, he simply disappeared. This only added to Felesha's worries. When asked how she came across ICNA Relief, she mentioned that a friend of hers decided to share her information with us. ICNA Relief Disaster Response team was visiting the neighborhood at the time in January.
Soon after we showed up to assess the property, Felesha was delighted. “I never knew something like this even existed. I was also excited about it,” Felesha shared. Arif Ali, ICNA Relief Disaster Response Staff, and his team were the subject of Felesha's appreciation. “They were really good. Everyone." she said. "You can see their heart was really there. They were sweet people. You meet someone you don't know and you feel uncomfortable but I felt like I known them for a long time.”
Felesha was on and off the site during the mold-removal process. Naturally invested in her future, she also contributed to the remediation of her home. “They was really surprised I was helping,” she continued. Felesha described what it felt like to be receiving help at such a crucial time. “It was something new and it was also when I felt overwhelmed...no funds and not getting help. It was a light in a tunnel. It was a start. A little view. What they think was little, it was big for me. It wasn't something I was able to do by myself and now I had help.”
During my conversation with her, I couldn't help but notice Felesha's strong spirit. She wasn't down on her luck about her situation but was rather hopeful. Her words painted the picture of a beautiful character illuminating the darkness of hardship. “Everything will work out with time. But it's never gonna work out the way you want it to,” she said speaking from a place of wisdom and courage.
Further testament to her character came when I asked her whether her interaction with ICNA Relief impacted her perception of Islam and Muslims. “I never felt any way about anybody. I learn never to judge. People judge other people. I never judge and don't want other people to do the same. I never had a bad feeling,” Felesha stated making her position clear. She welcomed the Muslim organization with an open and tolerant mind from the get-go.
Currently, Felesha is at a stand-still due to insufficient funds to complete the restoration of her house. The mold removal was a great burden lifted from her on the journey to a fully recovered house. “I'm trying to figure out the next step. I do want to live there. Be comfortable. When you don't have a home it's uncomfortable. When you have small ones with you it's even more difficult. When it's them, I don't like it.”
Despite the challenges, Felesha pushes forward with hope and gratitude. She left me with a word of appreciation for the team that helped her in her time of need. “Tell them that thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. They didn't have to do it. For them to take time out of their life to be able to be an asset to help my children...I appreciate it and can never thank them enough. Tell them God bless them and thank you.”
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