Every experience good or bad can lead to growth

I had such an interesting encounter today. My good friend and I in response to the famine in the Horn of Africa are in the process of putting together a fundraising dinner and silent auction to raise funds for the relief efforts in Somalia. In the past few days we have reached out to several organizations and individuals in our community to help with this effort. And the response has been very positive. One important individual we reached out to was our former African Student Association advisor and good friend, a professor of Anthropology at our university. This professor is amazing, very resourceful person and overall a good human being. Last week we met with him at his office and he connected us with several other resourceful people, who will help us putting this event together. At his office we also met an Eritrean activist, who works for the anti-Eritrean government. Our former advisor is a seasoned activist, who is involved with human rights and political freedom campaigning all over the world. And he thought it would be a good idea if the Eritrean activist joins us in our discussion about the famine relief fundraising event we are planning. Last week’s discussion on the fundraising event for Somalia went very well and we all made plans to meet with another individual today to further talk about the event.

After taking a tour of where we are to host the event, we all sat down to discuss the fundraising dinner and silent auction. Several other individuals joined us. And things started to get very interesting. First we discussed what organization the funds will go to since that had been a topic from the week before that was left in the open. I had been originally leaning towards giving the funds to Islamic Relief Fund and have even spoken to a sister that leads an interfaith Muslim group in our city about getting an IRF representative, but after speaking to my father a long time philanthropist working in Somalia about IRF my views on donating to Islamic Relief Fund in Somalia changed and I was no longer interested in donating to IRF. Islamic Relief president ignored my father’s emails and other Somali NGOs, and when they responded they did so negatively to ongoing efforts to benefit the people of Somalia. I trust my father and granted IRF has done good no doubt in other areas of the world but after learning of their lack of interest in Somalia until this current media spotlight on the famine I had a change of heart on them. Quite frankly I don’t trust them and many other large NGOs.

So with that change of heart having happened over the past few days, today’s meeting started with the sister I had spoken to about Islamic Relief advocating to donate the funds raised in the event to IRF. After she spoke her piece I redirected the focus away from IRF to a small NGO called the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA). The point I made was that a small NGO with little overhead and on the ground at the moment with a good track record like ARAHA is a better option than a big NGO. I didn’t say this because I have a personal vendetta against IRF, but I sincerely believe from experience that to be true. When organizations become too large much of the funds donated go to covering extravagant costs, etc.

But I did feel bad to have switched on the sister that I had spoken to only days before on donating to IRF and I don’t think she clearly understood my reasons since I couldn’t communicate my misgivings about IRF fully as I would have liked to make her understand my reasons, because I was interrupted by the Eritrean activist. He interrupted me to raise his suspicions on the NGO I recommended; because the president of ARAHA happens to be Eritrean and get this he tried to insinuate the president of ARAHA could have connections with the Eritrean government. This guy’s audacity! To come to someone else’s meeting and shut down the organization they pick to allocate funds to! Hehe, but wait, it gets better.

Because he couldn’t keep the ball rolling on the ARAHA-Eritrean government connection as it was absurd and I shut those ideas down, so he starts to go on and on about this awesome NGO that works to help Eritreans in Ethiopia and how we should donate the funds to them. Of course being a respectful person I listen to him, obviously this guy is passionate about his people and this is something that is admirable. And at the end of the day Eritreans are suffering too and I care about helping the suffering everywhere. We are all human beings and need to help each other. Because of this understanding I listen to him, ignoring his blatant disrespect of hijacking our meeting’s objectives to raise funds for Somalia and hoping this guy would at least have a little common sense and soon understand he was invited and not the planner for this event. But he didn’t have any common sense and kept on insisting we give to Eritrea. This is the same guy that was invited to come listen and observe an event that was being undertaken to raise funds for the famine in Somalia. It was so frustrating and I kept my patience, because at the end of the day we all want to help the suffering.

My friend and I tried redirecting the focus of our meeting. We highlighted we can’t stretch ourselves too thin and this is just one event, we can do a different event focused solely on Eritrea. We also pointed out during the dinner we can pass along the information of the many programs and relief efforts throughout the Horn of Africa, but the focus of this particular fundraising event was for Somalia. The guy kept up his insistence on Eritrea and had not the subject been about helping the suffering, I would have called him out on his crap. Every-time the subject was directed at me on how to distribute the funds we collect I kept having to repeat myself, “the focus on this fundraising event is for Somalia, we can hold another event for Eritrea, while highlighting during this event the situation in all of the Horn.”

Our former advisor, who had originally invited the guy to our event, also insisted on continuing the fundraising initiatives for the Horn and this was not a onetime deal. In the end an event was planned for Eritrea after I wouldn’t give in with splitting the funds raised to different areas in the Horn and keeping the focus on Somalia.

I’d be more than happy to help with that event for Eritrea, as I plan to InshaAllah. I care about all people who are suffering; not just Somalis, but the audacity of some people just amazes me. I couldn’t come to someone’s event to change their focus and dictate to them how they should allocate their funds! However it did serve as a great learning lesson for me. I am a very accepting, diplomatic person generally, but in life you have to stand your ground confidently, because people will try to dictate you.

May Allah SWT help all humanity and ease the suffering of all people.

Prophet Muhammad pubh: “What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.” (Bukhari)

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