Helping Hand, DCA Reach Out to Refugee Families on Eid

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Moving is hard. Moving because your home is a warzone is terribly hard. It is occasions such as the two Eids that make families miss their homes even more than usual. Resettled refugee families from Syria and Iraq received a chance to mingle and celebrate Eid Al Adha at the Celebrating Connections event on September 3, 2017 sponsored by Helping Hands for Relief and Development (HHRD), a project of the Islamic Circle of North America.

Two gigantic Galaxy bounce houses, covering the lawns of the Diyanet Center of America in Lanham, Md. (DCA) were filled with children, literally jumping with joy. Eid Mubarak hugs and kisses were on display everywhere with 50 resettled Syrian families and 50 local families meeting new and old friends.

DCA had rolled out the special white tent for sisters. A table, draped in the signature blue of DCA, was stacked with bags of zabihah meat- a gift from the people of Turkey to the poor and needy in the United States.

Altan E. drove up in a gleaming navy truck, with a load of meat. DCA President Dr Yasar Colak was manning the booth himself, serving each family with honor. “We built this inclusive center, joining our communities, unifying our hearts,” said Dr Colak. DCA has hired former refugees as staff and earlier in the year held a health fair and spring festival for resettled families.

Asif Khan, the Director of HHRD in Maryland, was distributing meat with his team of interns and volunteers. “This entire project was envisioned by our summer interns,” he said.

Nada Ibrahim is a university student interning with HHRD. A highlight of the internship was the ability to reach out to communities beyond the one she grew up in. Nada and Batool, another intern, created the program for their internship project. They contacted communities, donors, and sponsors. “We tried to hit every aspect of their lives,” she said referring to all the services and booths set up.

ICNA Relief and HHRD also gave out 200 bags of meat, book bags and had scholarship opportunities offered by a generous donor. A booth was set up for English languages classes.

Halal Mediterranean food trucks and the newly reinvented local favorite RJ’s as a food truck: RB Grill, were serving food and drinks. Popcorn and cotton candy carts were crowd pleasers for adults and children alike.

Imam Hassan Amin and Rashid Al Banna of Muslim Social Services Agency were instrumental in bringing the plan to fruition. “We had a very interesting discussion during the speakers program, with the help of Imam Bashar Arafat, to hear [the families] out in an interactive way,” said Al Banna. Housing, employment and schooling remain “huge issues”, said Al Banna.

“We are working on projects that highlight the broad skill set of the refugee population: culinary, tailoring and construction trades,” shared Al Banna. “We need to come up with a very comprehensive solution,” he added.

Salam, a fifth grader who now lives in Towson was waiting in line to have her face painted. She had black henna on her hands. “I had sooo much fun but I lost my bag,” she said with a pout. Minutes later DCA security helped her find her bag of goodies.

Nadia was a teacher in Daraa in Southwestern Syria. She arrived in the United States 18 months ago. Her friend Fatima is a housewife. “The Syrian women here [in DMV] don’t work [outside] the home.” The language, schools and jobs are a difficult terrain that has been hard for refugee families to maneuver. The accent is very difficult to understand, says Nadia.

Fatima’s three daughters in matching dresses swung around the hall, with their new backpacks, singing Eid Mubarak. For a little while all was well.

The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever. –Hadith in Al-Bukhari