DETROIT — On Wednesday United Way for Southeastern Michigan held a reception tilted "Ramadan 2012: Fight Against Hunger" at their headquarters in downtown with co-sponsorships from the Michigan Muslim Community Council, Muslims for Humanity, Zaman International, and No Kid Hungry Michigan. The reception addressed the current state of hunger in Michigan and the pro-active measures taken by the organizations to put a cap on an issue that has been steadily increasing since 2007.
|Najah Bazzy speaking on behalf of Zaman International, who donated over 1,500 baskets of food to families in need during Ramadan.|
United Way, an organization that focuses on the qualities of life within communities by strengthening education, income and basic needs launched a campaign titled "No Kid Hungry" at the beginning of the year to help children and families who were having difficulties with consistant accessibility to nutritious foods. The campaign included food drives and pledges, as well as interfaith efforts that reached out to the Muslim community.
Among those present at the event was Najah Bazzy, the Executive Director and Founder of Zaman International, a non-profit organization with a goal to provide "Hope for Humanity" for local residents who are struggling and in need of aid. According to Bazzy, this Ramadan, the organization was able to set-up food baskets for over 1,500 families. Along the way she says she noticed that people are more needy than ever.
"I can tell you that refrigerators are more empty this year than ever before, if there is a refrigerator. I can tell you more cupboards are empty, if there is a home or apartment. I can tell you it's scary that we are the richest country in the world and we feed the world, yet here in Michigan we are trying to feed others," Bazzy stated.
Also speaking at the event was the CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Michael J. Brennan. Brennan says that in order to experience hunger himself, his family did an experiment for a week where they would only have $5.35 to spend on a bridge card per day. Brennan says the experiment took a toll on his family, resulting in them having to change their lifestyle during the week.
"That Starbucks cup gets thrown out the window right away. Surprisingly, an apple starts looking like an expensive item. To try to burn through $5 a day on food is a rather difficult task. I am in no way saying I have an understanding of what that's like in the long haul, but i can tell you that it made me acutely aware...it was really hard to concentrate on anything else that week," Brennan stated.
Brennan also pointed out that one of the main problems with the bridge card program is a lot people aren't able to get passed the application process because they have to fill out a form that is over 20 pages in length, making it difficult for some people who might be illiterate. He says the organization is trying to find ways to make the forms more simple for applicants to fill out
Also taking the podium was Muzammil Ahmed, the current chairperson of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. Ahmed says their organization had a goal to feed 10,000 people by the end of Ramadan when they started their food drives, but by the middle of the month they had already started surpassing those numbers due to the strong efforts made by the communities.
"There are people doing incredible things for the community without them even getting recognition. We hope this partnership with United Way will help us recognize these people and there efforts so we can be inspired by them," Ahmed stated.
Also at the event were youth members from the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (MCWS), a mosque located in Canton. Members from the mosque decided to volunteer on their own time and were actively involved in collecting food for the drives that were organized by United Way.
"We collected somewhere around 2,000 pounds of food just from our mosque. We've also went out to Gleaners and to soup kitchens... I honestly think it's a great step that all these organizations are combining forces together, we've been able to impact a lot more people across the board," said Sabrina Ali.
United Way has set a goal by 2018 to reduce hunger by at least 50% in their target communities. Another major goal is to ensure that at least 80,000 children are able to have three free meals a day either during school hours or through child based food programs.