|The Muslim Women's Coalition donates Ramadan baskets to Bailey's Elementary School. [MWC photo]|
Add the Muslim Women’s Coalition to the list of local organizations that quietly go about the business of making our community a better place.
This spring, just before the start of Ramadan, the group made 101 “Ramadan baskets” – laundry baskets filled with food and other items – and delivered them to the needy, including 70 to Muslim and Hispanic families at Bailey’s Elementary School.
|MWC members deliver baskets to Bailey's.|
The women started the Ramadan basket project after 9/11. “We wanted to get involved in the community, not just because there is a need, but we wanted to dispel the negative views about Muslims that were taking hold after 9/11,” says Uzma Farooq, vice president of the MWC and director of the group’s Greater Washington, D.C., branch.
“We also wanted to provide hope in the community” as a way of discouraging youths from being attracted to radical elements, Farooq says. At the same time, the MWC wanted to provide a platform for women to “address the challenges of our time and learn about the beauty and values of Islam,” which include compassion for the community, protection of the environment, and restoring dignity and respect to the destitute.
The MWC first got involved with Bailey’s Elementary School a couple of years ago when a teacher suggested the group donate toys in December. Then last year, the group donated $2,275 worth of grocery gift cards during Thanksgiving and helped about 40 families during Ramadan in an effort facilitated by parent liaison Soudad Albairamani and PTA President Gwynnen Chervenic.
“The need there is immense,” Farooq says, noting that some parents can’t afford adequate food or winter coats.
The Ramadan baskets also served as a learning experience, as the Bailey’s families asked questions about the month-long fast, and MWC members offered answers.
The holiday, which is based on a lunar calendar, started June 18 this year. For 30 days, Muslims in good health refrain from eating during the hours from dawn to dusk. “It’s a month of giving, charity, and refection, when people get rid of bad habits and help their community,” Farooq says.
Also this spring, the MWC donated Ramadan baskets to nine Iraqi refugee families in the Annandale and Fairfax area. That project was coordinated with help from Marie Monsen of John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Annandale and former Iraqi refugee Amer Almash.
MWC provides baskets and other assistance to women victims of domestic violence though Doorways for Women and Families and to other needy families in collaboration with the Arlington-based NOVA Catholic Community, the Seekers Church in D.C., the Bridges to Independence program for the homeless, and other groups throughout the region.
The baskets contain about $75 to $80 worth of food (bags of rice, canned food, boxed items, tea, sugar, dry milk, and the like), personal hygiene items (such as shampoo and toothpaste) and clothing (such as socks and gloves). Baskets for Muslims might include other items, like dates, a Ramadan calendar, and prayer rug.
For those who receive a basket, “tt gives them a sense of self worth and dignity and a sense of ownership,” Farooq says.
Last year, MWC spent about $15,000 on this project. Every cent donated to MWC gets plowed back to the community.
MWC is an independent, faith-based organization based in Falls Church and not affiliated with a mosque. Every year, the group hosts an interfaith day of prayer focusing on love, harmony, and peace through literature and music, as well as cross-cultural understanding.
Farooq believes it’s critical to give the broader community a positive perspective on Muslims, especially during the current political climate when there’s growing concern about violent extremism. “If we can develop a relationship with one person and develop deeper understanding, we have achieved our goal,” she says.
About 30 volunteers helped prepare the Ramadan baskets this year, including college students and church members. The group is always in need of more volunteers and donations. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact the group’s D.C. office. Donations can be sent to MWC, 6644 Tansey Drive, Falls Church VA 2204