By Dania Qureshi
Growing up, I always saw Islamic Relief (IR) advertisements portraying war-torn countries and families yearning for help. I never really witnessed any calamities myself, but I always wanted to shelter these children and families so they could feel safe and worthy. Although, since I was still studying and had no steady income, I couldn’t help them this way— I could only volunteer and make small donations.
My father was looking for volunteer opportunities when I saw a flyer for the IRUSA Meal Pack event on Sunday, November 13 at Brighter Horizons Academy in Garland, Texas.
I felt the need to participate. My mother accompanied me to a previous IRUSA event, a Day of Dignity event, but my sister joined me this time. My mom was initially hesitant about spending five hours volunteering, but she appreciated that I brought her over to volunteer. She kept telling me, “Alhamdulillah, I am so grateful for this opportunity. We will get rewards for these good deeds, and I’m thankful to Allah for bringing this opportunity our way.”
I was not sure what to expect, but when I went to the location and saw how everyone was stacking boxes, taping them, and bringing in grain and rice, I figured out that we were doing something related to helping hunger. As I walked in, I approached everyone and made friends.
IRUSA’s Volunteer Engagement Specialist, Amrah Masud, had called me prior to the event and asked me to do photography and videography, and I was glad to do so. I started to take some photos as soon as the volunteers came in. Even though it was a Sunday, there were a number of kids spending their weekend volunteering with us instead of being at home watching Netflix or playing games. There were seven to eight people at every table, and they were stashing grain, rice, spices, and vitamins in packets.
“We are at Brighter Horizons Academy with the help of Islamic Relief to feed thousands of starving people. These bags pack meals are sent worldwide to help people. This event has had a huge impact on us, helping and cooperating. And it just gives you a sense of helping others in the community worldwide,” shared Blueshirt volunteer, Dr. Hiba.
Later, the staff member came to the table to grab the box where we stashed the packets, and he weighed and stapled them shut. We made 30,000 meals in four hours, just 5,000 away from our goal. This was one of the most significant accomplishments we all made, something I don’t think could have been possible without everyone’s contribution.
After everyone finished packing, we cleaned up the tables and put the grain away. Everyone settled, and I was determined to ensure that I captured and recorded the guest speaker’s speech, which I was sure would be intriguing. After all, the most memorable moments are those that we capture and carry with us.
The speaker appreciated all of our efforts and talked about our commitment to IRUSA activities. He said that we helped pack the meals for thousands of people and how IRUSA provides 10,000 liters of water, medical supplies, food, and reconstruction daily. He also talked about a 9-year-old girl from Sindh, Pakistan, whose home was ruined by floods, and her mother’s dowry went with it.
At the mention of Pakistan, I could not stop the creeping goosebumps. Pakistan is my country of origin, and such sad stories about it do not sit well with me. The good thing is – “this too shall pass,” and a new dawn will come for my people. As the volunteers passed around pizza, I reflected on every moment of the sessions and was intrigued by its success. We went home with full hearts knowing that we had played our parts in humanitarianism and charity.