DEARBORN/INKSTER — The local Arab American community is home to a large group of charities serving people of all races, religions and ethnicities; and one of the most well known is Zaman International, which purchased a new 40,500 square-foot building in Inkster in 2014 to continue scaling up its operations to serve more people.
The mission of the charity and its founder, Najah Bazzy, has always been to serve the less fortunate, especially marginalized women and children, not to achieve fame or recognition.
But recognition continues to find Bazzy through her and her organization’s good works, as evidenced by her recent nomination to the CNN Heroes program, a nationwide spotlight for America’s most dedicated and impactful servants.
Bazzy’s profile video has reached more than 1.3 million views on CNN’s Facebook page since its release two weeks ago, educating a nationwide audience on her mission through the growing international charity.
“In my faith tradition, there’s a beautiful saying, pray for your neighbor before yourself,” Bazzy says in the video. “It just means that other people count.”
She also tells the story of her inspiration for founding the charity in 1996, which began with the terminal diagnosis of a 3-month-old Iraqi American immigrant.
Bazzy has a background as a transcultural clinical nurse specialist and was providing clinical, spiritual and cultural support to the family. She became shocked by their sparse living conditions, which included a picnic cooler instead of a refrigerator, a lack of nourishing food, a portable propane stove used for cooking and a laundry basket piled high with towels used as a bed for the baby.
“I was devastated by that…I decided that this wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” she says in the video.
After the baby’s passing, Bazzy raised funds from the community to provide him with a proper burial. The experience also spurred her to provide for the humanitarian needs of people both locally and around the world. For many years, her charity existed out of the back of a van.
Now, families come to Zaman’s Hope for Humanity facility in Inkster to get their essential needs met, Bazzy says in the video, including food, clothing, shelter and a “whole lot of love.”
Zaman has served more than 2 million people, and has projects in more than 25 countries. Its main focus is on serving women and children living in extreme poverty.
Now that Zaman’s mission has been shared with the world, Bazzy is encouraging interested readers to help by donating through the CNN Heroes program, for which a CrowdRise donation page has been set up.
The vast majority of donations go directly to funding the many humanitarian programs being run by Zaman.
“What I’m most proud of this year is that Zaman is 94 cents on the dollar (which has been audited financially, she said), and it goes to programs,” she said about the percentage of donation dollars used to help fund its operations to serve those in need.
“We really encourage people to go to the website and to donate any amount that they can, anything helps.”
Currently, there are 16 CNN Heroes featured on the news organization’s website, and voting has closed for the nominees. By the end of October, 10 CNN Heroes will advance to the next round, and will each receive $10,000 as part of a global announcement.
A vote will then be held to determine the $100,000 Hero of the Year award winner at an awards reception with CNN host Anderson Cooper.
“If we advance to the top 10 then we will definitely hope to have everyone vote for the award,” Bazzy said. “The $100,000 would go to the organization; all of the funds go to it.”
She told The Arab American News that the response to the announcement of the recognition has been “very heartwarming” thus far, with people reaching out to her via text, letters and email across the world.
Bazzy said she never set out to achieve individual awards, but instead had a far different vision in mind.
“I always had this vision to feed the world,” she said. “That’s been a vision and a grind in my heart. That is a daily thing that I wake up with, thinking about how to feed the people, how to protect the women and children, I go to sleep thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it.”
While Bazzy is honored by the recognition, she said she believes the true heroes are not necessarily those in the limelight.
“I would like to say that for me, everyone that has been a part of my life or Zaman’s life is a hero,” she said. “The true heroes are the women who live in poverty, who wake up every single day and continue to be resilient. I think they are the real heroes.”
For more information, to donate or to view Bazzy’s profile and interview, visit her CNN Heroes page here.