Written by Salman Sheikh, Muslim Link Contributing Writer
Thursday, 25 August 2011
It is a fact that many kids come to the first week of school unprepared without any school supplies. And due to recent economically challenging times, buying school supplies and school bags for children can be a financial burden for many families.
Volunteers from ICNA Relief decided to help alleviate some of that burden by implementing a program called the Back-2-School Giveaway. The Back-2-School Giveaway is a community event where free school bags filled with school supplies are given out to families in the community.
Being a good neighbor and serving those in need is an essential part of our faith. These events also help promote a better understanding of the teachings of our faith. They also promote volunteerism, community service and interfaith work, something essential in times where Islam and Muslims are being many times portrayed negatively in the media.
The program is for anyone and everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender. We normally give one school bag per child present, and if no child is present, we give the parent one bag. This year we are giving out drawstring bags. They are cost effective, children love them, and they are in style. Each school bag contains supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, sharpeners, crayons, erasers, highlighters, and rulers. We do not include anything else (i.e., no brochures or fliers about ICNA Relief or about religious belief).
The school giveaways are usually done in financially challenged neighborhoods. Our giveaway events are usually done at Mosques and Islamic Schools but we also have events at community centers, public schools, and businesses.
Last year was the pilot program for our school supply giveaway in Baltimore and Washington, DC through the ICNA-VA chapter of ICNA Relief, which includes the MD, DC and VA area. Since last Ramadan was our first time doing such an event in this area, we coordinated one event with Masjid-Al-Haqq in Baltimore and Masjid Muhammad in DC.
This year three giveaways were scheduled in Virginia and two schedule in Maryland.
The Virginia giveaways took place on August 13 at ICCNOV in Woodbridge and the ICNA Center in Alexandria and on August 20th at the Badr Community Center of Dumfries. The Maryland giveaways are scheduled for August 27th at the Islamic Center of Salisbury and August 28th at Masjid Al-Muminoon in Baltimore, Insha’Allah. The website back2schoolgiveaway.com lists details of timings of giveaways in these and other cities around the country and also has video and photo content. You can also see ICNA’s photostreams at flickr.com/ICNA.
With everybody busy with the usual activities of Ramadan, we had a challenging time recruiting the regular older volunteers to help with assembling supplies and distribution. Alhumdulillah, we found a source of great energy, numbers and enthusiasm in the Muslim youth.
This year Insha’Allah, ICNA relief will be serving 15,000 children in 45 cities in the following states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
The number of attendees varies depending on the community, sometimes we get a few hundred and sometimes we get a few thousand attendees.
The total cost for this year’s program at $20 per school supply package will come to $300,000. Currently ICNA relief receives no grant money, so all the funds are generated through donations from American Muslim donors. We also raise funds through local sponsors such as other nonprofit organizations and businesses.
ICNA Relief is the social services branch of the Islamic Circle of North America, a leading American Muslim organization dedicated to the betterment of society through the promotion of Islamic values. ICNA Relief’s projects include women’s housing, hunger prevention, family counseling, medical aid, emergency financial support and funeral and burial assistance. For more information on ICNA Relief please visit ICNArelief.org
Article Courtesy: Muslim Link