A long line of families—mostly former refugees living in a massive apartment complex in Riverdale, Prince George’s County— segregated by gender stood waiting for the refrigerated truck to open.
Abdul Hai Sheikh of the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation (MCMF) stood by the Balady Farms Truck. He has been on the road since the morning, first making a stop at the Ar-Rashidun Community Center on Kenilworth Avenue in Washington DC. He has a long day ahead of him, as he will be delivering meat to Landover and all the way to Baltimore. MCMF donated a total of almost 6000 lbs. of Eid al Adha meat.
Happy shrieks of children in Pashtu, in Arabic, in Burmese resonate through the parking lot, surrounded by green accented buildings, as Nawab Nasrat started handing out the 5 lbs bags of fresh meat to each family. A woman wearing a baby in a traditional Nigerian print sling nods as Nasrat hands her a bag. She doesn’t speak English.
Qudsia is from Afghanistan and was one of the first in line. She is happy to receive “the qurbani”. She has been here for 10 months. There is still stigma attached and many did not want to be interviewed or filmed. Qudsia asks that her photo is not shared anywhere.
“The meat went to the needy, disabled, seniors, and [resettled] refugees in Montgomery County, PG county, Washington DC, and Baltimore areas,” shared Shiekh, who runs the program at MCMF.
The program was started 9 years ago. This time it increased in size significantly. “It is really rewarding,” says Sheikh.
Nine steers and 16 lambs were slaughtered at the Balady farms in Pennsylvania and also harvested 20 lambs overseas to feed the Syrian in refugee camps. The foundation collected $23,000 from 90 donors this Eid.
Aside from the annual meat distribution, the organization gives out dry food and a fresh chicken every month to those enlisted in the MCMF food pantry program.
As Sheikh is facilitating the process, Hammad comes by to greet him. Hammad, an Afghan resettled refugee whose name has been changed— he does not want to be identified— shared his story of aid from the foundation. “Since I came here, [MCMF] has helped me find a job and they donated a car to me. It was very tough for me when I first came here,” he said.
Employment is a constant challenge. Since many who come do not have a job history in the United States, there are many barriers to entry into the job market.
“The Muslim community has helped a lot as they know our needs. Without them it would be very tough for the newcomers to survived.” Many have benefited from English classes, run by Karen Bashir, held at the Muslim Community Center. A tutor comes to teach the woman which has helped them learn English and become self-sufficient.
“We need mentors who can guide us to good neighborhoods and to make informed decisions about the next steps in our lives,” said Hammad. “We are optimistic about the future of our kids,” he said, despite concerns about the school district.
He was asked to shave his beard at his initial job as a security guard, which he felt was an anti-Muslim stance. He now works at a new job in downtown Silver Spring.
Despite its roaches and bed bugs, the apartment complex is the first permanent home after many years of living in refugee camps and temporary housing for many of the residents.
A clean-shaven stocky man, Nusrat came to the United States in 2015, on a refugee visa from Afghanistan, where he used to work for USAID, a government agency.
He knows every child and every family in the complex. His refugee resettlement agency, Ethiopian Community Development Council, settled more than thirty families in the complex about 30 more families there. They celebrate with Eid parties.
“I tried myself to survive on my own,” he says.
Trying to save his family from depression and frustration, he took it upon himself to push to do better than the manual labor job he was doing. He now has a job with a financial services company and volunteers at MCMF in his spare time. Nusrat likes living in Riverdale, where people who share cultural roots with his family live and help his children preserve their native tongue as they pick up English at schools.
He says 150 more Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the next year.
MCMF also delivered fresh meat to several local charities this weekend, including New Creation Church and Impact Silver Spring, as well as Educare and Adventist Social Services, of Takoma Park.
The grassroots organization comprises of the Muslim residents of Montgomery County dedicated to serve the less fortunate people of the County regardless of their faith, ethnicity, color or creed.
This Eid al Adha, 1200 families had a meatier dinner and 90 local families fulfilled their worship of sacrifice, thanks to a service provided by dedicated volunteers. Eid Mubarak.