ICNA Relief Blog

Meet The Youngest Resident of Our Chicago's Women's Shelter: Baby Saheera

On June 20th, we welcomed little Saheera Lee Mills, into the world. She is the youngest resident at ICNA Relief Women's Shelter in Chicago. Born at 1:57 p.m., she weighed 6.6 pounds. While most newborns go home to a real home, Saheera came home from the hospital to a Women’s Shelter with her parents and six-year-old sister. It costs $600 on average, per month to cover rent, utilities, job training, case management and counseling, to support a family until they are back on their feet.
Donate to www.icnarelief.org and support 13 ICNA Relief Women’s shelters across the US, including Chicago. We are also counting on your duas that beautiful Saheera, and families like hers, are independent soon. Ameen.
Check out stats from Chicago's Women's Shelter:
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"He Took Away My Confidence" 

A Young Woman's Story of Adversity and Abandonment

You might think cruel mother-in-laws who make a woman slave all day, and neglectful husbands looking to secretly replace their wives, is the stuff of South Asian soap operas. But these things happen right here, even in the United States.
Twenty-five year-old Sara (name changed to protect privacy) has lived this life. Engaged at 16, while living in Pakistan, to a young man in New York, she had dreams of happiness, like any girl her age. During her four-year engagement, her in-laws were nothing but sweet and caring. It was when marriage brought her to the US that she uncovered their facade. 
"My mother-in-law, who was the nicest to me, became the rudest of them all," Sara said. "I couldn't even have breakfast on my own time. They set a schedule for when I was allowed to enter and leave my room."

Meanwhile, her husband's aloofness very quickly revealed he had been forced into the marriage. Sara also discovered ​that he had been interested in marrying another woman, all along. She was stuck. Read more 

As the country's only Muslim network of Women's Shelters, ICNA Relief hears many stories of desperation like Sara's. Alhumdulillah, because of givers like you, we are able to make a real difference in the life of a homeless woman by providing housing, counseling and help finding a job. 
Help us continue to serve as a safe haven for our most vulnerable sisters by making a donation this Ramadan, when your reward will be multiplied over and over. 

From Domestic Violence Victim To Director of ICNA Relief's Women's Shelters -- A Sister's Journey

"This is where my journey to independence began -- New Chardon Street Family Shelter (Boston, MA). The road to healing started when I walked through their doors in 1986 after leaving my abuser. Today, walking through these doors once again was very emotional to say the least. I was flooded with memories and more so of how long in fact my journey has been. 


Like yesterday, I can recall the phone call I received from my now ex-husband, who called to inform me he was on his way home to kill me. From the intensity of the beatings I’d experienced in the past by his hand, I had plenty of reason to believe his threat. Leaving with my two young sons and the clothes we could carry, we fled in the middle of the night, sleeping in our car overnight in Franklin Park in Dorchester, MA. 


I found myself homeless but safe, alone with two small children. Determined to remain safe, I found my way to the New Chardon Street Shelter which gave me the opportunity, at such a low point in my life, to find some stability and begin to heal. It was a blessing to have shelter in my time of need. 


Fast forward to some 28 years later, it's an even greater blessing to be able to return to the shelter, Alhumdilillah, in a position to give back. Today, as the Director of ICNA Relief MA, I delivered new winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves to the homeless women and their children who live where I once lived. It is truly through the Mercy of Allah that I am able to be in this position to help others. Being one who experienced abuse and homelessness in my own life, I am extremely passionate about the needs of others and ensuring that the under-served receive the same opportunities that I have in my life InshaAllah." 


                                                                                                   -- Sr. Malika MacDonald-Rushdan, Dir. ICNA Relief MA/Women's Shelters




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Young Boston Poets Help Raise Funds for ICNA Relief's Amal Women's Center
Last month ICNA Relief Massachusetts Office held the first Arts for Amal Floetry Slam. Each slam artist was responsible for raising a minimum of $25 for the Amal Women's Center, an ICNA Relief transitional housing facility for women due to open in Dorchester by January. The night had an ambience of warmth and unity. People from different faiths, backgrounds, and paths came together for a night of poetry and community building inside the largest masjid in New England, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
Ariz Saleem, Community Organizer for ICNA Relief Massachusetts, was MC for the night. His call and response slogan for that night was “When I say One, Ya'll Say Love!” -- as a way of reminding the group that we are all one human family. There were ten artists that competed and the prizes at stake were $200 for 1st place, $100 for 2nd place and $50 for 3rd place. Throughout the night, the audience interacted with and truly shared the emotional space with the artists. 
One of the guest poets, Jonathan Mendoza, took a pause and expressed how much he appreciated being invited to perform. “We need to have more spaces like these,” he said; no doubt an expression of the unique vibe that was created by the diverse gathering. The night ended with a well-known local artist and national slam poet Arthur Collins coming in 1st place, Jonathan Mendoza in 2nd and 12 year-old Yusra Mukhtar in 3rd
The topics that were covered ranged from social justice to poems of personal identity. To give you a taste of the night, it would be most appropriate to cite our 1st place poet, Arthur Collins: “Snubbed by their elders, our children get a raw deal, they got party animals for parents clubbing them over the head, the fate of our babies concealed. They are suffering, bluffing poker-faced class clowns, the cost of living is going up, the chance of living is going down.”  The night was filled with such powerful thought-provoking words for the audience to absorb and respond to. The Arts for Amal Floetry Slam was a memorable event for all who attended and accomplished the goal of rallying the community to be aware of and contribute towards the noble cause of the Amal Women's Center.
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ICNA Relief's Director of Women's Shelters Visits Women's Prison Near Boston


Sr. Malika MacDonald-Rushdan, ICNA Relief’s National Director of Women’s Transitional Housing, had the chance to visit inmates at MCI Framgingham women’s prison near Boston. Her visit was arranged by the Muslim Chaplain Imam Samir Soulaiman and was open to the general population of the women’s pre-release center. The visit followed three checks Sr. Malika had received from inmates in the mail who wanted to donate to ICNA Relief Massachusetts.


There Sr. Malika delivered a motivational talk for the women who are all in the process of being released soon. The title of her talk was “Houses of Healing; The Path Home."  She was met by a group of women both Muslim and non-Muslim who did not know what to expect from her visit. “When I entered the room you could sense a feeling of skepticism” explained Sr. Malika.  


“Everything in this life happens by the will of our Creator, therefore every situation, be it good or bad is an opportunity for us to be better than yesterday. Your time spent here should be seen as an opportunity, an opportunity to heal and to let go of bitterness. I time to heal and to forgive, beginning with forgiving yourself," she told the audience.


Sr. Malika also shared her journey to Islam and used her own story as encouragement that change is possible. An hour long talked turned into two hours as the women were able to relate and draw strength from the conversation. The women laughed and cried as Sr. Malika shared her own story which touched upon many similarities these women have faced in their own lives. 


The purpose of her visit was to encourage the women to stay on the right track once they are released and to offer a system of support once they are home. Many expressed an interest of participating in ICNA Relief USA Transitional Housing and to be involved in the work of reaching other at risk women which in and of itself can be very powerful for a formerly incarcerated woman.


Sr. Malika hopes to return on a regular basis offering support to these women who are in transition. ICNA Relief USA’s Transitional Housing was designed to serve women who have begun personal development and are ready to make a real change in their lives.



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ICNA Relief Houston Provides Financial Assistance to Help Two Sisters Get Married
Alhumdulillah, ICNA Relief Houston had the opportunity to help two sisters get married last month after they requested assistance. One of the brides was a former resident of our Houston Women's Shelter. The other was a daughter of a sister who receives groceries from ICNA Relief Houston's food pantry. We helped by providing all basic household items for bed, bath and kitchen along with wedding dresses for the groom and bride. Gifts were bought for the bride and groom like watches, shoes, handbags, make up, perfumes and colognes. ICNA Relief Houston also helped finance the wedding reception dinner for both sisters.
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Kindergarten Kids Hold Penny Harvest for ICNA Relief USA at Massachusetts School


IMGP2802Sr. Malika MacDonald-Rushdan, ICNA Relief USA's Boston Field Office Director, visited Al-Bustan preschool in Cambridge, MA recentlty where kindergarten students conducted a Penny Harvest to benefit the Amal Women’s Center Transitional Housing Facilitya program of ICNA Relief. 


She presented each student with an ICNA Relief USA “All Star Award” for being good neighbors and spoke with the children about what it meant to be a good neighbor by helping others in our community. "We playfully illustrated through stories the concepts of wanting for others what we want for ourselves and of everyone being equal in the eyes of Allah," Sr. Malika said.


The children enjoyed the story of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the Blind Man,  Goodnight Stories from the Life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and were entertained while learning how to help others. 


ICNA Relief would like to make a special mention of Sr. Zahra Majidi, the children’s teacher  for instilling such impeccable Islamic values in her students and organizing a way in which her students could learn about charitable giving. MashaAllah!

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ICNA Relief Meets with Director of West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing to Accomodate Elderly Sister
By Shazia Ali
Ms. Laura Jervis, executive director of West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, visited ICNA Relief USA’s Transitional Housing Facility in Jamaica, NY on Tuesday. She met with our  Moviz Siddiqui, director of Transitional Housing Facility and Assistant Director Shazia Ali about providing resources to homeless senior citizens.
ICNA Relief USA transitional Housing referred Ms. Perveen (name changed to protect privacy), a senior citizen aged 74, to the West Site Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing services. In response to our referral request, Ms. Jervis wished to meet the client at our shelter home.
Ms. Perveen says that despite being the mother of a millionaire son, she did not receive the minimum support she needs from him to live a dignified life and so had to make her way to a shelter home.

After the meeting, Ms. Jervis promised to provide a unit at a senior housing facility with a kitchen and attached bathroom, according to the needs of client. She will confirm the provision of the unit in two weeks. Then, ICNA Relief USA can refer more deserving senior clients to West Site Federation for Senior & Supportive Housing for available services.

Ms. Jervis expressed great appreciation for ICNA Relief USA’s services and programs. She is a very influential professional and has access to a wealth of New York City resources. She promised to refer us to NY Homeless Services United of which she is board member. This referral will help us take part in their meetings to further gain resources and benefits for our clients. She promised to direct us to resources and information that could further increase benefits they are eligible for. She will also connect us to the organizations that provide free related trainings. Last but not the least, she will refer us to available resources for funding opportunities as well.

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Aspiring Lawyer Donates to ICNA Relief on Behalf of Her Guests on Wedding Day
Arranging a wedding ceremony requires a lot of work big and small not least of which includes giving out wedding favors. Whether to gift your guests customized chocolate bars, printed candles or elegant photo frames is a question many are left to fuss over. Not so for up-and-coming lawyer Sumera Shaikh. For her wedding, she has donated all the money she would have otherwise spent on purchasing wedding favors to ICNA Relief USA.
"I always find it so wasteful," Sr. Sumera said of favors. "People always throw that stuff away so why not give it to someone who can use it?"
She decided to donate to ICNA Relief on behalf of her guests after she attended the organization's annual banquet in Somerset, NJ.
Attending the banquet and hearing stories of the hardships homeless woman face is what inspired her to take this step she said.  "It helped us understand what ICNA Relief does and how important this organization is for people like her."
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