DEARBORN HEIGHTS — The Islamic Institute of America (IIA) Summer Camp offers an engaging summer program with fun recreational and educational activities/lessons that are embedded with Islamic studies. The camp, which runs through August 3, is for children from the ages of 5 to 12 and takes place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Founded by Imam Sayed Hassan Qazwini in 2015, the IIA is an Islamic center funded by community donations and is made up of more than 1000 families with diverse ethnicities.
“The sayed always tries to give back to the community and is always engaged in starting new programs,” said Zeinab Charara, an administrative member of the IIA Summer Camp.
The mission of the IIA Educational Programs is to provide its students with a high-quality education within Islamic studies, the Quran, and the Arabic language. A few other programs within the institute included an Arabic Quran program on Saturdays and an English Quran program on Sundays.
“As soon as those (Saturday and Sunday) programs were done, we were already thinking of the Summer Camp,” Charara said.
The summer camp program includes many engaging activities each week. The children have planted flowers around the mosque, played in a water balloon fight and had a movie screened for them and community members.
Zeinab Alhilal, the secretary within the program, emphasized that the program is about more than teaching Islamic studies and the Quran.
“The program gave them a sense of purpose in regards to learning,” Alhilal said. “They put their touch to the mosque, identifying with the mosque.”
Program Director and Principal Suzan Samhat expressed pride in knowing the children are seeing their progress throughout the camp program.
Samhat, along with other staff members, placed extra emphasis on the planting exercise.
“There is a Hadith about plants,” she said. “Islam is also about caring for nature. There is a wasiya (will) guiding us to keep planting.”
The children left name tags on the plants and are monitoring their growth throughout the program.
Staff members running the program are proud that the children have a purpose to attend to and that many volunteers are helping impact the community.
“The kids get up in the morning and come here,” Samhat said with pride. “They are not pushed (forced). You do not have to push the kids, but just have to teach them the right way.”
Charara acknowledged the growth of the program, which began with only 60 students and now has 120 students and counting. She also emphasized the importance of teaching students with balance how to behave like proper Muslims.
“You cannot keep lecturing,” she said. “Kids will eventually stop listening at one point. Instead, we can get more of the kids’ opinions and what they want.”
Another motive of the summer camp is to keep the kids off the streets and bring them to a fun and secure environment.
The most rewarding aspect of the program, according to teachers and administrators, is to see the remarkable improvement within the children’s mindset and the environment as a whole. They are jubilant to know that the children are enjoying this program, religiously and socially.
“We desire to plant the seed of community in the child,” Alhilal said. “We want them to feel beautiful in the community and find their place Islamically.”