Muslims Raise $215,000 for Families of San Bernardino Victims
By Owaiz Dadabhoy
San Bernardino, CA: As I write this, temperatures in the Southland are hovering around the 40-degree mark. I walk outside early this morning with a jacket on. It has rained overnight, the air is fresh, and the streets are clean. I hurriedly come back inside to warm up and have a hot drink. I stop and think for a moment about our neighbors who do not have shelter and I wonder how they will warm up and how they will get their wet clothes, socks and shoes dry again.
When we started UPLIFT Charity 10 years ago we knew there were many organizations already doing work. Many of them happened to be from other than the Muslim faith. We decided that assisting people in dire straits was not only the right thing to do but also our duty as people and Americans. We wanted to continue to use our financial resources but as importantly we wanted to use our energy and time to contribute to our local neighborhoods and neighbors.
One such opportunity to assist resulted from the December 2 nd San Bernardino tragedy that led to the untimely death of 14 of our neighbors. Each of the families has to deal with the loss of their loved one, and in many cases, they have to suddenly deal with a loss of an income. The local Muslim community came together to raise funds to alleviate some of the hardship for the victims’ family members. UPLIFT quickly joined MiNDS and Dr Faisal Qazi’s initiative to raise $20,000 for the family members of the victims. However, the Muslim community responded in such a tremendous way that the goal was increased several times, ultimately set at $175,000. During the first 100 hours of the campaign $1,000 per hour was being collected. Over 2,000 people contributed to this effort to help those that are going through the most difficult time in their lives. An incredible $215,000 was raised by the campaign’s end.
Tragedies like the one in San Bernardino fortunately do not occur every day. However, the tragedy of individuals and families living on streets and in parks is an everyday occurrence. UPLIFT created a project years ago to deliver jackets, blankets and other clothing to our homeless neighbors during the winter season. Other faith-based organizations that are usually present, thank us for participating and they tell us that it’s great to see Muslims doing work for the local community. The truth is that Muslims have been assisting people ever since they arrived in this country. It’s part of our DNA and part of our faith. However, having organizations that are run by Muslims do the work in a systematic way on a schedule provides much more benefit to the recipients and gives Muslims a more meaningful way to participate.
When an organization like UPLIFT asks for volunteers we reach our maximum very quickly. This shows that Muslim community members want to get involved, and love to get involved. In addition to providing blankets and jackets and other clothing to our homeless neighbors we’ve found that providing hygiene items and tube socks are a big benefit to them as well. As I talk to some of the homeless families they tell me “socks are worth their weight in gold out here”. When I ask why, they tell me that they are walking and sleeping in the same socks all day and night and they end up getting wet, dirty, and torn after just a few days. What I take from these conversations is a realization that the items that I take for granted are critical items for others.
On the morning of December 24 th, UPLIFT will partner with the youth group from the Islamic Society of Orange County and distribute over 300 blankets to our neighbors living in parks and streets. A catered breakfast will be served to all. On Martin Luther King Day, UPLIFT will partner with other Muslim-led organizations to conduct another distribution in a different area of Southern California.
During this past Ramadan, our team along with 50 plus volunteers, served “iftar” dinner to the people living in the Santa Ana streets and parks. A number of businesses provided restaurant meals and volunteers brought additional food. Anyone that wanted to eat that night had an opportunity to eat and anyone who wanted to participate with their hands had an opportunity to come out and serve people and represent their community and their faith.
While UPLIFT’s primary initiative is zakat distribution, we’ve found that having a general fund and a deep pool of volunteers allows us to provide assistance to those hardest hit in our own backyard. At a time when Muslims in America are being demonized and being labeled in certain ways, it is important for the Muslim community and communities of other faiths to know that Muslims have created and are leading dozens of initiatives in Southern California. Since all of us live in this country and receive the benefits of this great land we feel it is vitally important that we also give back and participate in charitable work for the greater good.
Muslims in Southern California have established food pantries, a food bank, women’s shelters, shelters for domestic violence victims, refugee resettlement programs, free medical and dental clinics, homeless assistance programs, psychological services, and much more. It is important that all charitable work is done with sincerity and without consideration of recognition and reward from other people. However, it is also important that our fellow citizens realize that Muslims are engaged in work to benefit society.
UPLIFT is an acronym which stands for “Uplifting People’s Lives based on Islamic Followings and Teachings”. Since UPLIFT was founded in 2006, more than $1.4 million dollars has been spent on saving families from eviction, finding housing for those who have recently become homeless, feeding programs, assistance with resettling of refugees, emergency lodging, and assistance to families who have had their utilities turned off due to lack of adequate payments.
Let’s continue to get involved and increase the work that we all do for the most fragile and vulnerable amongst us.
( Owaiz M. Dadabhoy has worked in the financial services field for over 20 years and is the President of UPLIFT Charity.
Visit www.UPLIFTCharity.org for more information about the programs mentioned or follow on Facebook at UPLIFT Charity)