Ordinary Muslims Doing Extraordinary Things

Engy AbdelkaderHuman Rights Attorney HUFFPOST RELIGION

Does a reference to Muslims trigger thoughts of folks organizing food pantries, park cleanups and low-cost health clinics?

Do you think of global volunteerism and young adults creating — opportunity and hope — not destroying?

Do you envision a helping hand?

Allow me to introduce you to Aysha Mohsin: law school grad, business analyst and writer. She also serves as the director of program development for United for Service, a California-based non-profit providing global volunteering opportunities to young Muslims looking to leave a tangibly positive imprint on their world.

Founded two years ago, United for Service works to alleviate the suffering of those in developing countries by sponsoring annual trips abroad. During a recent three week trip to Morocco, for instance, Muslim volunteers hosted free health clinics and taught local village children how to brush their teeth.

The young adults also participated in agricultural farming projects, irrigation initiatives; and they interned in a private and public hospital, and also visited orphanages. The non-profit also sponsors annual trips to Mexico and India as well.

“By witnessing the needs and challenges faced by others first-hand,” Ms. Mohsin explains, “volunteers are much more motivated and inspired to come home and serve their local community and this is behavior we strive to foster.”

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In 2005, Zubaid Kazmi and his wife participated in a Habitat for Humanity global trip to Sri Lanka following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country.

“This was one of the best experiences we have ever had,” remembers Kazmi. “The connections we made with the people we were working with — the other volunteers and the locals — continue to have an impact on us today.”

In fact, Kazmi tried to recreate the experience a few years later by joining up with some fellow volunteers for another Habitat trip but this time to work in a rural part of India. When the trip fell apart and Habitat rendered it unviable due to the paucity of volunteers, Kazmi decided to go anyway along with three others.

“The four of us — an Atheist, Christian, Jew and me, a Muslim — spent our time building a fence around one of the schools to keep the grazing animals out of the area the kids used to play in,” describes Kazmi. “And, we helped with the many re-forestation efforts around the forest.”

The personal impact of these experiences was so profound that Kazmi decided to share it with others. In 2009, he created Sharing Humanity.

“Our objective is to bring together people from different backgrounds to work toward a common good,” says Kazmi, who also serves as executive director of the Washington, D.C. based group. “We not only like to bring volunteers from different faiths and ethnicities, but we want people to be exposed to cultures and regions that they would normally know nothing about.”

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