Connecting to the Community through IRUSA

By Zana Sahyouni

Growing up in a post 9/11 world, Waseema felt like an outsider that was constantly facing racial discrimination by her peers in middle and highschool. The problems she faced ignited a desire in her to showcase how Muslims are good people. She searched for a Muslim community, and found herself at the International Learning Center Plus (ILCP) in Virginia.

In between studying the Qur’an at ILCP, Waseema listened to her friends tell stories of the hardships their family members faced back home. She could not believe that so many people experienced impoverishment, displacement, and oppression in their home countries. Listening to these stories fueled Waseema’s motivation to help people worldwide, to showcase how Muslims care for others.

Waseema found herself here at Islamic Relief, where our vision of a world free of poverty aligned with hers. Waseema is working towards that goal by studying social work and community health at George Mason University, with the goal of helping with community development in war-torn countries.  At our headquarters, Waseema helped with the annual progress reports within the Orphans Sponsorship program. We are honored to showcase Waseema and the work she has done with us.

1. What inspired you to volunteer with IRUSA? What made you decide to volunteer for this particular work?

I had [heard] about Islamic Relief when I was younger and I had friends who volunteered with the organization in the past and I knew it was something I wanted to be part of. When I heard that Islamic Relief needed help with the Orphan Sponsorship program, I knew it would be a great opportunity to continue to do meaningful work with the organization and learn more about how they help communities both domestically and internationally.

2. What did you gain from your volunteer experience with IRUSA? What motivated you to stay involved?

I love knowing that I am contributing to something great and I got to know the organization on a deeper level than I did before. I got to interact with employees in different sectors and learn about [what] IRUSA does on an average day and it helped me [gain] an extra appreciation for the work Islamic Relief does. 

3. Our vision at IRUSA is a world free of poverty. How do you feel knowing your work has contributed to that? 

It feels amazing knowing that I am being part of something larger than myself. I love going in feeling like I can help make a difference and that there is no such thing as insignificant work. 

4. Did you learn anything new about IRUSA? What advice would you give someone who is thinking about volunteering with IRUSA?

In all honesty, I remember walking into the office on my first day and being a bit surprised to see how down to earth everything and everyone was. I realized I never thought about what IRUSA was like outside its meal packs and benefit dinners. In my head I imagined superhuman people helping to make all these amazing things happen, and I was right, except for the part where I [learned] that these superhuman people [were] just like me and other volunteers I met along the way. They took phone calls, did paperwork, and went to meetings just like other organizations but what made Islamic Relief stand out to me was [sic] that these friendly and welcoming people took pride in their work and voiced a vision that was larger than just one person or department. I [learned] that there is no such thing as insignificant work because all work has value and all the work Islamic Relief does is done by regular people with superhuman hearts. 

I would encourage anyone who wants to volunteer to reach out and participate in different projects because you will end up learning so much about the organization and the people you help. It’s a great way to get involved and give back to your community and you will definitely walk away from every event feeling like you made a difference. 

5. How did you learn about IRUSA?

I learned about Islamic Relief through the Muslim community in my area. I knew people who had been volunteering for years before I was and they always had something good to say about their experiences!

6. Do you have a final message you would like to share?

I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had with Islamic Relief. I know I made the right decision going out of my comfort zone and volunteering for my first meal pack and I look forward to many more opportunities to come!  

Are you interested in becoming IRUSA’s next volunteer? Visit irusa.org/volunteer to learn more. 

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