Day of Dignity: Helping kids in Brooklyn go back to school ready

by Zana Sahyouni

At Islamic Relief USA, we believe that everyone has a right to dignity, and that is one reason why, every year, we bring Day of Dignity events to communities around the United States. Day of Dignity creates an opportunity for caring individuals from diverse communities to provide services to their neighbors in need. Through Day of Dignity, IRUSA brings volunteers around the world together to distribute food, clothing, blankets, medical care, and other services. 

On Sep 10, 2022 APNA Brooklyn Community Center held their fifth annual IRUSA Day of Dignity “Back-to-School” event in Brooklyn, New York. APNA chief executive officer, Erum Hanif, brought the community together, with the goal of helping students go back to school prepared.  

“Today we are going to give out 1,000 school bags, 1,000 school kits for elementary, junior and high school kids. As well we have a lot of hygiene kits, PPE, educational materials, as well we are giving out free toys, ice cream, [and] free halal cooked meals,” she announced to the line of over 300 children and parents waiting patiently. 

Children waited their turns to pick out a backpack and school supplies, before choosing a toy of their liking: “I like this event, but the line is very long, but I like how they help people,” Zayd, 7, said while waiting his turn.

The children were eager and the parents were thankful: “I am really thankful, this is a really big job and big help for families, for kids. They are really happy. [My kids] are really grateful” shares Anna, a mother of three. 

“It’s a great support for my babies, it helps me a lot, especially during the pandemic, [it is a] big help for the parents” shares Marcella, a mother of two. 

While the children opened their new toys and indulged in icecream, the organizers reflected on IRUSA’s campaign: “I love calling this a Day of Dignity because dignity is really so much at the heart of making sure that the people too often excluded are lifted up and I really think that the whole community around here, and especially the Muslim community, is doing so much to contribute to them” announced New York City Comptroller, Brad Lander, a co-organizer with APNA. 

“I really like this Day of Dignity because every school year I feel really good about getting all this stuff,” shared Eman, 12, when asked what the day meant to her. 

“It means they care about society and they want to help,” answered Hamza, 8, a third-time beneficiary. 

The event was a great success: hundreds of children gathered together to show off their new school bags, play with their toys, and share laughs over ice cream and biryani. Being able to witness first-hand how Islamic Relief directly helps the community was an honor I will never forget. 

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