Delaware residents lead service mission to Bangladesh
EVENTS AND CULTURE EDITOR
Since the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and their subsequent exodus to neighboring countries, global organizations like the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization have stepped in to help provide relief as they have in other crises. But for ordinary citizens and fellow Muslims around the world, the path to and methods of aid can be less clear-cut.
Arqum Rashid and a select group of people in his personal network sought to overcome these challenges by organizing and funding their service mission from the ground up this past winter.
“It all kind of started as a small idea,” Rashid, a first-year law student and full-time Imam, says.
According to Rashid, the UN has stated that this crisis is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. As the Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar, refugee camps in places like Bangladesh are growing at incredible rates but, as is often the case, basic supplies and resources are sparse.
Rashid decided that instead of going on vacation between his semesters, he would spend that time and his savings on a worthwhile cause. He beseeched others to do the same.
“The pitch I gave to people originally was that we’re going to collect $10,000, and every single dollar of that is going to go to the refugees, and we’ll cover our own costs personally,” Rashid says. “It’s a little more personal that way.”
Without the administrative and operating costs associated with going through large charitable organizations, Rashid’s group, Stand With Rohingya, was able to achieve much more.
“We divided our money into various projects, so we built 25 refugee tents, four deep-tube wells, we distributed 3,000 blankets, 3,000 wrap-around shawls, distributed hygiene packs, and we created a fund for pregnant women,” Rashid says. “We also donated hospital beds to the medical center, because when we were there, there were only three.”
Here at the university, students involved with these projects see the value in missions and hope they continue with them going forward.
“In both Humanity for Southeast Asia and in MSA [Muslim Student Association], we want to continue doing work in humanitarian causes and with refugees,” Abeer Jafil, a member of MSA, says. “A lot of us in MSA work with Arqum[Rashid] on the side, in addition to our club activities. We don’t want this to be a one-time thing, and we hopefully have a finalized plan for something else this summer.”
Jafil is optimistic for future missions, and with growing awareness of issues like these in Muslim communities, she believes this winter’s service trip will be a part of a larger wave of activism.
“A lot of the Muslim community, in Delaware and across the U.S., is very passionate about this kind of work,” she says. “So of course they’re giving donations, support and a lot of them even themselves are going on these trips to see and be a part of the cause.”
In the future, Rashid wants to build on the success of the first trip and set Stand for Rohingya’s sights even higher.
“Our target goal [for fundraising] is going to be a lot higher, we’re probably going to aim for $100,000,” Rashid says.” There’s nothing firm or stable yet, but we had a great team and were well organized, so we could definitely do it.”