Hidaya: A Breath of Fresh Air
By Abiya Ahmed

Pictures above: Hidaya Foundation teams at work

Santa Clara, CA: In today’s modern society, where people are trapped in a world of commercialism and consumerism, an organization that exists purely to serve humanity comes across as a breath of fresh air. Since 1999, the Hidaya Foundation has been providing that air through numerous charitable projects conducted in economically depressed areas of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, several countries in West Africa and North America.
Hidaya is a non-profit, 501(C)(3) organization founded by Waseem Baloch in Santa Clara, California. An engineer by profession, who worked for more than 20 years in the defense and aerospace industry and telecommunications in California, Baloch started writing the bylaws of the organization in 1990. He had to delay the project due to circumstances, but Hidaya was finally registered in the US and Pakistan in 1999. However, he had conceived of such an idea as early as 1972, when as a teenager riding with his uncle on the streets of Karachi, he saw several people driven out of their homes due to monsoon rains.
“All the huts and shanty towns were destroyed, and I was in the car looking at other children sitting on the street with a few pots and pans, and they had lost everything,” he recalled, “and for several miles, I rode with my uncle and witnessed the destruction. It impacted me so much that I wasn’t able to sleep that night. I remember I found myself crying, and making dua to Allah (SWT) to use me to serve His creation. I believe that was the beginning of the Hidaya Foundation.”

The programs
According to Baloch, Hidaya’s priority is education, especially women’s education. “But we realize that when people don’t even have one proper meal, how can they worry about education? Hence we spend time toward social welfare and healthcare as well.”
Consequently, Hidaya’s programs are of three types: educational and vocational, social welfare and disaster relief, and healthcare. Sub-projects within each category include sponsoring students and schools in deprived regions, distributing Zakat to widows, orphans and elderly, supporting marriages of destitute girls, the One Million Meals project, being on location as soon as disaster strikes, ensuring that people are not lacking bare survival necessities, and providing medical support for underprivileged patients and hospitals.
Additionally, Hidaya also carries out a Container Shipment Project, which involves collecting books, computers, medical supplies, clothes, shoes, toys, and other household items to ship to impoverished areas. “In the 11 weeks after the earthquake in Pakistan, Hidaya sent 24 forty-feet containers full of blankets, winter clothing and tents to Pakistan, collected from throughout the USA,” Baloch said.
Does he think the community is doing enough to serve charitable causes? Without a moment’s hesitation, Baloch replied, “When Muslims in the past paid their Zakat, there were no poor left. Looking at the worldwide situation now, I feel that all Muslims are not paying their Zakat. So no I don’t think the community is doing enough.”
He believes awareness plays a key role in this regard, noting that instead of just playing on people’s emotions, Hidaya attempts to educate people through its flyers (how to calculate Zakat, why one should pay Zakat and Sadaqah, etc.).

The future
The organization has come a long way since Baloch started working on it from a desk at his home in 1997. The year Hidaya completed its registration, it raised $111,626. Baloch noted that in 2005, “Hidaya crossed $4.2 million ($3.5 million cash, as well as having in-kind donations worth $750,000). So Allah has placed tremendous barakah [blessings] in our work and helped us bring the organization to this level in such a short period of time.”
In late 2002, Baloch decided to work full-time for Hidaya. Very matter-of-factly he noted, “I thought if I could give my energy and knowledge to corporate America, why not to Hidaya and hence to those who are more deserving of it?”
After Hurricane Katrina, Hidaya led the way in forming a Muslim task force for disaster preparedness and relief. Currently, it is working on a pilot project with Red Cross Bay Area for training the Muslim community in disaster preparedness.
Baloch noted that working on field, for disaster relief or in impoverished regions, with those in dire circumstances, “impacts you immensely as a human being, it’s unbelievable.” At the same time, he acknowledged that “no matter how much we do, it is not enough, and it only drives us to work harder to please our Creator. Had it not been for the Mercy of Allah, we would not be able to do anything at all.”
He concluded, “We just make dua to Allah (SWT) to accept our work, to enable us to provide more services to humanity, and to take Hidaya to the next level, and the next.”
For more information, email Hidaya at mail@hidaya.org, or call at 1-408-244-3282 or 1-866-244-3292 (toll-free) or visit www.hidaya.org.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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