By Maitha Ali
(GREENSBORO) – In response to the oppressive political and economic climates within the Middle East and Africa, large flocks of refugees have been displaced in various countries, including the United States. In fact, according to a demographic study completed by Pew Research Center, nearly 85,000 displaced refugees entered the U.S. in the fiscal year of 2016 (PRC, 2016). Since then, many churches and other non-profit organizations have taken the initiative to intervene with the affairs of the refugees, sacrificing an extensive amount of resources, efforts, and time in attempt to assist them.
A prominent and notable non-profit organization in the small yet populated city of Greensboro, North Carolina, has a similar mission. The Islamic Center of the Triad (ICT) Refugees Committee, founded by a team of Muslim activists, is a newly established organization with hopes of aiding families who have endured separation, immense discomfort, and suffering. This team is determined to empower and transform the lives of the displaced refugees who know little to nothing about America.
“Our non-profit organization was primarily established to serve the ends and objectives of the refugee’s community where the government and other resettlement agencies may lack in support and/or resources,” Sheikh Badi Ali, one of the founding members stated.
The ICT Refugees Committee, oversees 97 families within Guilford County, including the cities of Greensboro and High Point. While more than half of the refugee families are from Syria, the rest represent the countries of Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Congo, Bhutan, Somalia, and Sudan.
Of course, this overwhelming selfless service is not achieved in solitary – however in solidarity.
“We maintain constant contact with our partnerships of numerous resettlement agencies as well as some churches, such as the College Park Baptist Church,” executive Director of the ICT Refugees Committee, May Zamamiri, stated.
“This not only avoids overlapping of services, but unites our community towards one cause – regardless of our individual differences,” Zamamiri added.
Considerable efforts assembled by the ICT Refugees Committee include monthly educational orientations, featuring accredited guest speakers who discussed topics of Medicaid, rights as a refugee, job hunting, and ways to access different services and resources. In addition to education, schooling, and adapting to the new environment of American laws and culture, the Committee has also assisted by providing counseling and health check-ups, in which several refugees were diagnosed and treated for any physical or mental faults. Also, clothing, furniture, and food drives, were carried out on several occurrences.
Earlier this week, because the holy month of Ramadan is upon us, the ICT Refugees Committee evenly distributed a 55-pound box to all families, obtaining a variety of halal meat and other food products.
So how is this non-profit organization notably accomplished? And why do they sacrifice their own personal endeavors?
Zamamiri explained how her background as a bilingual Palestinian benefits her in this field of work. “Palestinians are generally closer to the language and culture. For the sake of Allah (SWT) anyone can do this job, but being a practicing member of the religion of Islam and knowing the culture and the language – I make it easier for the refugees.”
She goes on to state, “This is what sets us apart from other agencies – not only our drive, but our diversity, and ability to naturally connect without having cultural or language barriers.”
“I am an immigrant, so I understand,” Samira Khan, Outreach Officer of the ICT Refugees Committee stated. Khan is a self-motivated, and exceptionally educated individual from Pakistan, who shared her struggles as a former refugee – mentioning that even the three languages she was fluent in, were not useful when she initially entered the U.S.
“At one point, I had to start a new life too, so I am not only physically involved with these individuals [refugees], but mentally and emotionally too.” Khan said.
According to Sheikh Badi Ali, “Without volunteers, we would not be able to continue the work we do. Always get involved.” Ali also believes that service is a form of worship and explicated the importance of making the refugees feel welcome.
“We are all only human. These people may not remember what you did for them, but they won’t forget how secure and happy you made them feel,” Ali said.
Ali concluded, “We worship Allah (SWT) by serving, caring, and loving our community and the community at large.”