A 7-year-old Syrian refugee was bullied in public school in Maryland. Taunted for her broken English, her head was smashed into a desk by a student, she suffered bruises on her face and neck. Her family did not speak English, so they didn’t know who to turn to for help. Until a one of the sisters in the local Muslim community heard their story and contacted the school to take action. She acted like an Ansar. We often hear of stories of the Muhajiroon and think we would have been Ansar in the Madanian times. We hear stories of Aleppo and think we would be saviors who would save the innocent families from being killed.
Some of us think we are helpless but we are not. The Muslims in the DMV area have a chance to be helpers. They can become an Ansar family to the refugees in their area. The idea was floated a year ago and has taken time for fruition. “[The project] is basically to help the Muhajirin in navigating their lives in America. There is no monetary assistance involved. Ansar [are] not expected to give cash to the Muhajirin. Ansar also expected not to give [material] assistance.
Mozaic is an organization working out of Virginia, headed by Raghad Bushnaq. They have helped furnish 21 homes of incoming refugees. “We furnish houses and we arrange for pick up sometimes, but we don't own a moving company nor a truck nor [do] we have employees who carry heavy furniture. All mov[es] are based on volunteers, who are mostly family members and friends,” notes the team. Bridges is also a network of volunteers who have taken a lead on refugee resettlement, filling the gap after the government sponsored resettlement agencies and their aid ends .The volunteer committees have divided the refugees into zones for easier planning. Zone B covers Hyattsville, Landover and Riverdale. Zone A covers Baltimore, Catonsville, Dundalk and Monrovia. Zone C is also in the works. They carefully assess needs and match them with resources in an organized manner.
Bridges helps move refugees into Muslim friendly areas, assists with initial expenses, offers English classes and disperses zakat funds. They are also looking for Muslim businesses who are willing to hire refugees so they can find permanent work. The Ansars are meant to augment what Bridges and Mozaic do, not overlap with the services that Bridges and Mozaic provide.
“Teach [refugees] to be self dependent. They cannot remain dependent on anyone,” says Sri Shareefah.
As of publication 35 families have signed up to be Ansars. Many of them are from out of state.“There is a lot of hesitation,” says Sri Shareefah, a coordinator for the DMV Refugee Network, a loose group of volunteers who have come together on Whatsapp. “We will hold a training session for the Ansar to inform them of the ground rules,” shared Sri Shareefah. The training will take place on January 15, 2017. Sign up at ansardmv.wordpress.com.
An Ansar can expect to visit the family every week, follow up with the progress of their English language learning, inquire about the kids' schooling, arrange a ride to the doctor when needed, manage the refugee family budget and report to Mozaic or Bridges if there is any shortage, help to find jobs and resources, translate paperwork and bills should a problem occur, help the family apply for aid programs such as utility aid, educate them about the system, laws, and regulations; and inform them on how to make life easier for them, such as shopping for deals, halal stores, bus routes etc.
“Our brothers and sisters refugees are our amanah. We were eager to help them, when they were away, sending monetary and [material] donations, making duas and so on. But they are here now. There are about 124 refugees families so far just in these areas and Baltimore. Our obligations to help them should not stopped. We can't leave them feeling alone and helpless in this giant countries. Where are we when they were crying for help, because they don't know how to do things in this country? We are the most closest to them as we shared the same belief to Allah Ta'ala,” says Sri Shareefah.
“Allah Ta'ala commands us not only take care of our own family, relatives, but also our neighbors; near neighbors and far neighbors (Ayatul Birr),” she adds.
“If you don’t speak Arabic, Bridges has counselors who speak Arabic, the counselor translates for us,” she says. Otherwise, Muhajir family will be forced to speak English, which is good for them in the long run, suggests Sri Shareefah.
Mozaic holds many educational and social programs such as teaching refugees children their rights. PGMA is hosting an Ansar-Muhajir dinner on February 11, 2017. PGMA will also hold English classes for refugees on Wednesday mornings. “The education committee is open to have a class for brothers. We need brothers to volunteer to teach English on Saturday evenings,” she added.
MCC is hosting English classes for the refugees living in Riverdale.
Donate to PGMA for an upcoming welcome dinner events between the Muhajirin (the refugees) and their Ansaar (adopting families), to hold free English classes and Quran classes for the refugees.
https://www.pgmahome.org/DonateToPgma.Fwx Select 'Refugees Support Fund'.
To support MOZAIC: Mozaic PayPal or Google Wallet is firstname.lastname@example.org
To support Bridges America:https://www.duscommunity.org/donate/ type on the notes: BRIDGES America.