Saturday, November 21, 2009

Project Downtown

Hello All,

So I wanted to start off by thanking the students from the Wesley Foundation for accompanying us to this past PD. Sometimes the number of people who are in need of help at the shelter lead me to feel helpless in terms of making any real difference or being able to lend a hand in a meaningful way. It bolsters my hope though, as it always does, when I see others also going out of their way to help those in need. To see people thinking about the plight of others and trying to help them even though there is no immediate or tangible rewards associated with doing so is quite uplifting.

Erasing poverty is an undertaking that will take a society not just a few individuals so the more people out there the better.

Finally, I just wanted to say that I had a lot of fun getting to know and working with everyone this past PD. The van ride and pastry shop were also really fun. I hope to see you guys all again in the future! Til then, take care and peace,

~Mahmood Farooqi

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NY Times Article about Hunger

Hi all,

An interesting thing to think about: "Hunger in US at a 14-Year High," NY Times November 16, 2009

Radio donation

Ok so this is a completely different sidenote that I forgot to include in my last post, but at the last PD from talking to the the people in the center, it was apparent that many of them follow sports religiously. The problem they run into is when games are not broadcasted on the local channels, they don't get to watch them and have to wait to hear how it went. If anyone had a radio that they could donate to the center so that sports games could be followed live, it would definitely mean a lot to everyone that can use it.

Lets be proactive..

As a participant of PD since it began a few years ago here at MSU, I can definitely attest to the impact that PD has on the people we serve along with the surprising impact PD has/will have on you. Going out of your comfort zone is never easy, but once you can cross that barrier and strike up a conversation with the people in the shelters, you really won't regret it.

Every week PD has been nothing like the last, but in a good way. We go there, we laugh with the people in the shelter, hopefully brighten up their days, remind them that someone still cares while giving them a chance to vent about what they are going through. The people that I have talked to in past PD's are never expecting a solution to their problems...they've always just been incredibly grateful for our presence and for having someone that they could talk to that will listen. Like Maggie mentioned earlier, a lot of self realization goes on with every visit. My perception before had been it is the life choices that we make that lead us to where we are today.

What I failed to realize before, was life is not fair. The ones that end up homeless didn't necessarily do something in their life to deserve it. All it really took was one misstep for many to end up where they were today. The important thing now is for us to try to help Volunteers of America and other shelters move forward.

Right now when we take 2-3 hours out of our day to make sandwiches and talk with the people in the shelters, we are helping to alleviate some of the hunger and anxiety, but its only a momentary relief. The sandwiches only help push their hunger for another few hours, not giving them a permanent solution. One thing I think we should try to work towards is helping Volunteers of America and other organizations start programs to help get their residents back on their feet. A few of the residents already spend their days working around the establishment cleaning up and cooking...I think that pro-activeness should be more encouraged at the centers.

Anyone got any ideas on what we can do to help PD become more effective long-term at serving the Lansing residents?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Beginning

Hey Everyone!

My name is Maggie Ferrara and I'm a peer leader over at the MSU Wesley Foundation -- the United Methodist Campus Christian Ministry right down the road. We were very grateful to be invited to work on Project Downtown and I just wanted to share my experiences with you all.

At first it was a little intimidating -- going into a building that I had no idea about, meeting with a group of students, that to be honest of whom I didn't have much true knowledge about. After playing a version of soccer with some of the school kids that included "just kick the ball" we met up with the group to start making sandwiches. We had a great time getting to know each of the other students and an easy and comfortable conversation was shared by all.

Then we all piled into the church van and went downtown. I believe that the Project Downtown students really did a pretty good job of preparing us for this super-awkward-out-of-our-comfort-zone experience. They gave us pointers for how to approach people, and how to start talking to everyone.

This is where my eyes were opened like nothing else in my experiences.

I spoke with two gentlemen who had fallen on hard times. We talked about weather, sports- our favorites to partake in and to watch, MSU, education, and our living situations. One is in rehab and getting his feet back on the ground. He is working towards getting a job with WKAR and finding somewhere to live. The other really spoke a lot about his situation with his family. Firstly, he is a Vietname Veteran who had been badly injured and came back and had some trouble adjusting back to civilian life. He lives with his daughter and his granddaughters. They live paycheck to paycheck and when his daughter had become ill, their combined income wasn't enough to make their rent payment. Although he said that he had the money and could get it to the landlord the next day, they came home at night with their belongings on the curb, leaving them to fend for themselves. He currently has a job at a Meijer and is working to support his family, but the low-wage job is just not enough.

It really made me think of my perceptions of the homeless and how wrong they were. Especially about how many factors can lead to homelessness. It really also made me think about how fortunate I am, and how not everyone is infalliable -- we could all fall at some point.

Overall, this experience was an amazing eye-opener for so many things -- homelessness, my backyard, other beliefs and how beautiful human nature can be.

From talking to the Wesley Foundation Students who were at the Project Downtown, there was a lot of positive feedback and I think I can speak for us all when I say that we were touched and wish to grow this partnership with not only Lansing, but the Muslim Student Association. We all had a great time working with you all and are excited for the possibilities of working together in the future.

Thanks again -- sorry for being so wordy!!

Peace and Love
Maggie Ferrara

My experiences

I was at the first project downtown that Aymen set up, and it went really well I thought. Its amazing the kind of people you meet there. Literally from all walks of life. Its definitely a reminder that no matter how much schooling, how much work we put in, we could very well end up asking people for sandwiches in the future. We need to remember that every time we go in and help these people out.

Whats funny is that I was not really looking forward to going that week. I had several exams that week, and I was trying to find an excuse to back out of it. But from the moment you walk in, you realize why we were put on God's earth, and what our duty is as fortunate Muslim youth.


State News Article on an Increase in Homelessness in Michigan

I've posted an article from Wednesday State news front page. It's about the increase in homelessness in Michigan. If you haven't read it I encourage you all to check it out.

"....'The scary thing is this past weekend, it was 29 degrees. No one should be outside and we found some people out there.'

Nada- you had an idea how there is a lack of winter outerwear and how maybe we can start a donation box for hats and gloves and such. Let me know what you all think!

Moment of Reflection

Assalaamu Alaykum,

This isn't necessarily an experience from the PD's that I have been to, but it is an interesting hadith to think about when we make charitable efforts such as PD:

The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said:

"When charity (alms) is delivered out of the hand of its owner, it (the thing being given) says five things: 'At first I was perishing and you gave me life; I was insignificant and you made me great; I was an enemy and you turned me into a friend; you used to protect me then but now I will protect you up to the Day of Resurrection'."

- Al-Ithna 'Ashariyyah, p.223

PD from October 30th

Last PD I talked to two ladies; Alicia and Beverly. Here's what they had to say:

Beverly is a retired african american woman that has been living in the shelter since last December. She's been looking for an apartment with cheap rent but usually settles with hotels. She told me she worked at the correctional facility and a hospital before. What fascinates me is that she mentioned that she enrolled into Wayne State University in 1972. For whatever reason, she didnt really mention why, she graduated in 2003 in anthropology and sociology. She pulled out a picture of her graduation with a note on the back from her daughter. I asked her if she has any children and she said, "No. Well, none that are actually living anymore."

Alicia is another african american woman that recently resorted to a homeless shelter. Due to lack of funds she had been evicted from her apartment. She's looking for work and I asked her what type of job she'd like to have and she responded, clerical. She told me she has two sons that live in Lansing; one is 27 and the other is 21. I asked her what she thought of the shelter and it was apparent that she highly dislikes it. She looked really depressed...

Something to think about and hopefully build off to come up with something that can better their lives....

Hopefully, I'll hear from all of you soon.