Support for Islamic Relief worldwide

We have joined other organizations to condemn the efforts to to de-fund Islamic Relief Worldwide (Islamic Relief USA ).

Leading humanitarian organizations expressed grave concern about a proposed amendment to the State and Foreign Operations section of the House Appropriation bill (HR 3354) by Congressman Ron DeSantis that would strip funding away from Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a global humanitarian organization dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and suffering.

The thirteen organizations – American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), Bread for the World, Care, Child Fund, HIAS, InterAction, International Rescue Committee, Global Links, Mercy Corps, Project C.U.R.E., Relief International, Oxfam, and Women Thrive – stand united in support of IRW and call the allegations against the organization baseless. More than 500 audits of the organization have failed to find any evidence to support Rep. DeSantis’s allegations.

Read More: IRW-joint-statement-13-groups-FINAL

ARAHA’s statement at the people’s climate solidarity march

The American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa is a registered non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. ARAHA is a small nonprofit working in and with the Minnesota community. For the last 15 years, ARAHA has been delivering the essentials necessary to provide relief to those suffering from drought, disease, hunger, and illiteracy in the Horn of Africa region, which includes Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. ARAHA also helps families break the cycle of poverty by developing opportunities for them to generate an income and educate their children.

As many of you might know, East Africa is currently facing yet another drought and the possibility of famine. The last rainy season was extremely dry and brought little water relief to the region, leading to a situation in which crops and livestock are failing to grow, people are being forced to migrate, and many families have been reduced to eating just one meal a day. Over 21 million people are suffering in this region. When the last famine hit East Africa in 2012, over 260,000 died. More than half of them were children.

This drought is part of a continuing trend of higher temperatures and lower rainfalls that we’ve seen in the region over the last three decades. Both of these trends have been attributed to climate change, and it will only get worse if we do not act. There is no time to lose in addressing climate change. The longer we wait, the more people around the world will suffer from drought, famine, and other consequences, especially people in developing countries like Somalia and Sudan, where climate change effects are projected to be the worst.

We must continue to demand action from our government and from governments around the world, and this march today is a demonstration of just how many people care and are willing to make that demand. But we must also look at our own actions. In some areas of East Africa, people have access to just 3 gallons of water per person per day. In contrast, the average American uses over 100 gallons of water per day. What are we doing to reduce our water consumption? What other actions are we taking? Are we reducing the amount of waste we produce, resisting the urge to buy every new thing, reducing or eliminating our meat consumption, taking public transportation, donating to environmental causes?

We cannot expect to see positive change for people in need in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and around the world until we first make that change within ourselves. Let us continue to work for positive action on climate change together as individuals and as a nation.

Combating deforestation

The droughts and flash-flooding that the Horn of Africa is currently experiencing are occurring due in large part to changing climate patterns, but they are also exacerbated by another problem: deforestation, which has been going on for decades throughout the region.

According to research conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), forests serve as a crucial form of defense against poverty, providing about a quarter of household income for people who live in or near them. Forests also help to retain rain water, produce oxygen, keep soils fertile, and reduce pollution.

Yet more than 18 million acres of forest are lost each year, resulting in both regional and global problems. Millions, if not billions, of trees are lost due to construction, mining, agriculture, meat production, and forest fires. To make the problem even worse, industrialized nations consume more than half of the world’s lumber, leaving developing nations to bear the brunt of the effects with fewer of the benefits.

Combine deforestation with climate change, population growth, oceanic pollution, and overconsumption, and the results are devastating all over the world. But in regions like the Horn of Africa, where drought and poverty have hindered progress for decades, the situation is even worse.

It would be wise to recognize that this is not a situation that can be fixed in a day, or even in a decade. Fortunately, some governments in the region have recognized the importance of reforestation programs. In Niger, reforestation projects have turned barren land into agroforests; in Ethiopia, a similar program has restored over 2,700 hectares of land. Through initiatives like these, we find a glimmer of hope for the region.

ARAHA is striving to help combat deforestation in the Horn through our self-reliance projects, which provide nomads with four goats, a pair of trees, and information on the importance of protecting the environment.

All of us has a small hand in making a difference, and this is how we, with your help, have chosen to begin.

Refugee camps are no longer temporary

There is no doubt that the international community provides critical help during a crisis. However, we may need to examine the approaches we use to assist those in need to make sure each effort is effective.

One of these approaches in need of review is refugee camps. Whenever people flee their homes and cross borders due to war, natural disaster, or dictatorial policies that turn normal lives upside down, the UN sets up temporary camps for them, housing families in tents that offer barely any protection or privacy. UN agencies provide basic life necessities to keep refugees alive until they are able to return to their home countries. Because decision-makers have the mindset that refugee camps are only temporary, education is rarely provided in refugee camps. When it is provided, it does not exceed elementary grade levels.

Yet in reality, many refugee camps cannot be described as temporary. Some camps are over 60 years old, such as the Palestinian refugee camps that originated in the 1948 war. Others, like the Eritrean refugee camps in Sudan, have been around for over 45 years. Even Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp (with over half a million people), has already been housing people for 25 years. It’s not unlikely to find two generations born and raised entirely within these camps. But the serious lack of high schools or vocational training centers available to refugees means they never have a chance to learn a craft and become productive members of society. These refugees thus become dependent on the food rations they receive monthly or regularly. They forgot what it means to live on their own earnings.

They are not to be blamed; they have been set up to fail. How can they succeed if they are put in an isolated area and not allowed to own property, train for a profession, or pursue higher education? They are not even allowed to move outside these camps without a permit from the host country. Consequently, millions of people within these generations go without educations, jobs, or skills, fully dependent on foreign aid to survive.

With each political conflict, war, and crisis around the world, the international aid community opens up new camps with same “temporary” mindset, hosting thousands of new families that will be fully dependent on the aid provided by relief organizations.

As the load of refugee camps becomes increasingly heavy and unbearable, UN agencies and NGOs find themselves unable to afford the ongoing costs. As the media spotlight fades from these old camps, and new crises get the attention, refugees find themselves left behind.

Therefore, we need to reconsider our approach to refugee camps. Currently, we are not only setting up millions of people to fail in their lives; we are also making it difficult for donors and funders to help, and for the UN and NGOs to cope with any new refugees. We need a new approach that promotes policies for refugees to sustain themselves and be able to return to normal life within a certain period of time. We need a path that enables refugees to stand on their own two feet and live with the dignity they deserve.

 

Another 4-star rating from charity navigator

ARAHA’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. This is the fourth consecutive time that ARAHA has earned this top distinction.

Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology. These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, we upgraded our methodology for rating each charity’s’ financial health with CN 2.1. These enhancements further substantiates the financial health of our four-star charities.

“ARAHA’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds ARAHA to a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges. Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support ARAHA.”

“It’s important our donors trust that we’re using their donations wisely to alleviate human suffering and build self-reliant communities, by providing humanitarian aid and empowering individuals in the Horn of Africa and here at home.” said Mohamed Idris, Executive Director of ARAHA. “Our 4-star Charity Navigator rating demonstrates to our supporters our good governance and financial accountability.”

ARAHA’s rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on www.charitynavigator.org. More-detailed information about ARAHA’s rating click here

About Charity Navigator
Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org, is the largest charity evaluator in America and its website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of more than 8,000 charities. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data. As a result, Charity Navigator, a 501 (c) (3) public charity itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations and foundations that believe it provides a much-needed service to America’s charitable givers. Charity Navigator, can be reached directly by telephone at (201) 818-1288, or by mail at 139 Harristown Road, Suite 101, Glen Rock, N.J., 07452.

About ARAHA
For over a decade, ARAHA has been delivering the essentials necessary to provide relief to those suffering from drought, disease, hunger and illiteracy in the Horn of Africa region. ARAHA also helps families break the cycle of poverty by developing opportunities for them to generate an income and educate their children. The American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa is a registered non-profit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

 

 

Solar lights for students in Africa

Preparing for exams can be one of the most nerve-wracking times in any student’s life, but the difficulty is even greater when students don’t have access to the resources they need to perform at their best—as I witnessed on my recent trip to the region. With no source of light at home to help them study, I watched as nearly a dozen students gathered to review for an exam under a tree on a cold dark night. Armed with the only solar lamp available locally, and covered in blankets to ward off the chill, these students demonstrated their dedication to learning despite the odds stacked against them. For children like these, education is a priority, yet they struggle to find the proper time and space to nurture their minds.

This experience–as well as the larger energy problems that East Africans are facing–prompted ARAHA to begin its Solar Light campaign. ARAHA is striving to make solar lamps available to families who live off-grid in the Horn of Africa. These lights provide a renewable, inexpensive source of energy that can charge during the day and be used at night. For students, this new resource means they will be able to study in their homes at night, after long days spent at school and work, without resorting to the expensive and unhealthy option of burning charcoal or kerosene. But the benefits of solar lights don’t stop there.

East Africa is one of the regions that is subjected to some of the harshest effects of climate change, and one of the adaptive strategies recommended by scientists and economists is to expand its access to clean energy sources. Yet refugee camps and rural areas in the Horn region are still heavily reliant on charcoal and kerosene–energy sources that cause pollution, start house fires, and produce harmful fumes that children and their parents breathe in whenever they need light after sundown. These types of fuel are not only damaging to health and the environment, they are also becoming more expensive as deforestation spreads and the demand for energy increases throughout the African continent.

With each solar light a family receives, the dangers of traditional fuel sources are removed and the Horn of Africa takes a step closer to a clean energy culture. With only $50, You can provide a solar light for a family that can last for five years. That is exactly the kind of donation that generates a beneficial chain reaction–children are able to study more productively and improve their education, parents need not worry about fire hazards or the cost of buying more fuel, and overall pollution levels drop. We urge you to help light up the Horn of Africa with as many lamps as you can sponsor. With your support, many more families may live a brighter life with clean, healthy light in the Horn.

Shegerab medical convoy

About a couple of months ago a team of medical staff embarked on a journey to Shegerab refugee camp to help treat over 5,000 refugees, Many of whom had never been treated by a doctor or nurse before. Just being diagnosed, or the sight of a doctor was something as rare as an eclipse. It would be understated to say that it was well appreciated.Although we were able to treat most of them, we were unable to treat over 180 people in need of cataract surgery, due to time constraint and other factors.

This Past month a miracle happened, it was as if all was planned and waiting for this moment. Our Executive Director, Mohamed Idris, and the ARAHA team in Sudan came across an organization called Al Basar International Foundation who partnered with ARAHA to help to provide the cataract surgery for over 180 people from Shegerab refugee Camp and Kilo 26 camp. The surgery was conducted at their Mecca Hospital in Kasala City, Sudan. ARAHA provided transportation from and to the camp.

It was a day filled with joy and happiness, as the day came as a surprise to many. We would like to send a warm gratitude to Mecca Hospital in Kassala and their wonderful team for making this happen. You’ve helped to restored clear vision to over 180 people, thus enabling them to see their families and go about the daily life a little easier.

Using your faith to make an impact

For years ARAHA has worked with communities like churches, synagogues, and mosques,  to raise awareness and funds for the Horn of Africa Region. But we wanted to extend that to something more tangible, something we can instil confidence, and inspire the community with. We wanted to empower them by providing a direct link to the impact being made with the projects and partnerships.

This is how Faith in Action was established.  A campaign in which we work with communities to help them select an impact project such as water well,  or even establish a sister village in which they can perform multiple projects for greater impact.

One of the first to take on this campaign was the Northwest Islamic Community Center (NWICC) in Plymouth, Minnesota. “We want to make sure that we can feel where we are making a difference.”  Said Tamim Saidi, a pharmacist by profession, and a board member of NWICC. Mr. Saidi was one of the key members of the Islamic center to champion this campaign and bring in a new way of making a difference.

water well sponsored by NWICC for the faith in action campaign

 

“We wanted to have something that we could put our anchor on, and say ‘this is our sister village’ ”  Mr. Saidi said passionately. Today, NWICC has taken Harirad Village in the northwestern part of Somalia as it’s sister village.  The consecutive years of drought in this region has crippled this village. With a population of about 4,000 people, who mostly depend on livestock, this partnership couldn’t come at a better time.

 

With NWICC’s efforts and ongoing campaign for the village, they were able to fund a water well serving 300 families, fed over 100 families, and sponsored 3 orphans.  It is partnerships like these can move to inspire people and communities. When you build a bridge across the world between the sponsor and the beneficiaries, the two communities seem to align and the world tends to be a smaller place.

“They don’t know us, we don’t know them, but we are doing this purely for the sake of God”

These are the types of donations, and gifts that go beyond the dollar or the tax benefit. It is build by relationships established across the world;  love for your fellow human being, and love for changing some ones life. The like of it is that of homemade food cooked with love by your mother, compared to a restaurant dish – there is no comparison.  No mater how fancy that restaurant dish may be, nothing can replace the special ingredient of love. This is why the Faith in Action Campaign and the sister village are so important.

Becoming a lifesaver

ARAHA life Saver Campaign is a peer-to-peer crowd funding campaign on our website designed to  help our supporters to launch their own fund raising campaigns to support ARAHA’s projects in the Horn of Africa region.

The following is an interview with one of our donors highlighting the importance of this campaign and why she joined.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Leila and I’m from Northern California, married with two kids.  I am a registered nurse.

What is your role with EMC?

I’ve been an active member of the Eritrean Muslims Council (EMC) for over 10 years and actively participate in the relief committee. By God’s will, my friends introduced me to projects focused on aiding refugees living in camps in Sudan and I watched video clips such as the “Forgotten Refugees” and more by the Ethar’s organization. This led to EMC brainstorming relief projects we wanted to focus on, eventually leading us to ARAHA and it’s executive director, Br. Mohamed.

Through the relief committee, we have worked on the building and opening of a high school health clinic in a Sudan refugee camp and in partnership with Kind Hearts, assisted in the building of a school library.

I am motivated and encouraged to continue my participation on relief projects by the people doing this work and by those who support the projects with their time, donations and prayer. Most importantly, the increasing support from the community at large, both Eritrean and non-Eritrean that fund our water well projects and our annual Eid gifts for orphans and Ramadan food baskets campaigns.

 

Leila Abubaker From EMC ran a few life saver campaigns over the span of a few years and made a significant impact in the HOA region.

How has the partnership with ARAHA helped you achieve your goals over the year?

Without a doubt, Araha is a critical factor in our success.  They have assisted us in executing our projects and reaching those who need assistance the most. They are dedicated, efficient, and transparent every step of the way. Araha is one of the few organizations that we officially work with to help refugees in the Horn of Africa and I hope we can continue to work together to expand our reach.

Why is it important for you to give back?

As Muslims, it is important for us to give back, even if it’s small because when individuals who make small contributions come together, great things can happen.  We have seen this with our EMC relief committee and through the partnership with ARAHA.

How has the Life Saver Campaign on our website helped?

The lifesaver campaign was amazing! Our original goal was to raise $16,000 for the building of two water wells, orphan gifts and food baskets. In three weeks, we raised $22,000, far exceeding our goal! So we had enough to build two water wells and increase the number of orphan gifts and food baskets. The experience gives me hope that there are many people, both Eritrean and non-Eritrean, who are passionate, caring, and willing to give.

The website was really helpful, there was some confusion at the beginning, a lot of donors felt it was not user friendly, it confuses between the general donor and specific life saver campaign donor, which I shared with Araha and they were able to accommodate my request.

What would you say to someone who is interested in starting their own life saver campaign on our site?

You should go for it! You can really make a difference!

What inspires you about ARAHA?

ARAHA is a pleasure to work with.  They answer my questions promptly, provide timely updates, and delivered full reports at the end of projects.  They are licensed with official tax ID which gives everyone a peace of mind.

Any other comments?

I thank God for giving me the opportunity and ability to give back and work with amazing people. A special thanks to the EMC leadership for supporting the many relief projects I have worked on over the years and ARAHA’s team for helping me every single step of the way!

I thank all those who helped during the campaign, whether that was through donating or spreading the word.

Choose to make a difference, choose to change a life, and choose to help a child.

More than a refugee

A child awakens in the morning by the ray of light that pierces through the humble abode they live in. As they sit up from their bed, and the smell of the cool morning dew brushes their nose, they realize that it was here in Sudan, in the Shegerab Refugee Camp that they finished their Elementary school education. And for that period of time, they were not just refugees, they were students. But today, without a secondary school, they assume their identity as a refugee. Going through the motions of life trying to find their path and their place in this world.

Desiring to keep the dreams of these young children alive, ARAHA stepped in and took on the large task of making sure these very children keep their identity as students. With the support of our donors and partners, We built the first high school in Shegerab Refugee Camp. In a camp that has been around for over 30 years, this was a huge milestone for the community. Understanding that women are the backbones of society, we initially opened the door to educating girls first. In time as we grew, we were able to expand and accommodate boys as well.

Ever since its inception, the school was blessed to have over 95 students graduating—several of them bound for college—it has become a cornerstone of this humble community in Sudan.

As the school grows, we are faced with the difficult challenge of adequately accommodating all students. Due to this, our high school is in danger of closing. Today, we are embarking on a mission to further expand our school by building at least five new classrooms to give opportunities to more kids who want to be more than refugees.

To make this happen, we are raising $50,000 to cover the cost. If you choose to give, the impact of your gift will not be temporary; it will be a lasting donation that will serve the Shegerab community for many generations, and kids can wake up every morning as students.

Today,  even some of the college students consider returning to the camp and assuming a new identity as teachers at Shegerab High School. Thus, bringing everything into a full circle – This is what we call the circle of change.  So as these young men and women go in pursuit of the dreams, and as they find their places in life, we can say that with these small steps, change is possible.