Category Archives: World

How to Support the Beirut Relief Efforts

As you many all be aware, on August 4th, at 6pm local time, a massive explosion took place at the Seaport of Beirut in Lebanon. It appears the cause of the explosion was due to the accidental ignition of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for many years at the ports.

This very preventable explosion has taken over 125 lives, injured over 3,000 people and destroyed the homes of more than half the city’s residents. There is a dire need for blood donations, volunteers, and funds to help with an already strained healthcare system due to COVID-19.

If you are in Lebanon, you can safely go to any local hospital or clinic to donate blood and see if there is a need for volunteers. There are many groups gathering to help with the cleaning and rebuilding efforts as well. Every little bit counts.

For the rest of us outside of Lebanon that can donate, the best resources I’ve found so far are the Lebanese Red Cross and the Impact Lebanon crowdsourcing initiative through Just Giving. You can search for your local NGOs that may be offering assistance but I’ve listed a few I’ve come across below.

Kindly note that when making a donation to Lebanese NGOs, do not make it in the country’s currency (Lebanese Lyra/Pound), as it sadly has been collapsing over the past year. Your best bet will be to do so in either US dollars or the Euro.

Baytna Baytak has been helping house healthcare workers and first responders across Lebanon during the pandemic response. Now they are working to help the more than 300,000 displaced residents of Beirut find temporary shelter.

International Medical Corps is helping survivors get life-saving care, deploying medical units and mental health care efforts in support of the damaged facilities and overwhelmed healthcare.

Islamic Relief has an office in Beirut and thankfully their staff is safe. Now they are working to bring much-needed aid and relief support to Beirut.

World Food Program of the UN is helping bring food to the area after the major food sources, like the grain silos, were destroyed at the Beirut port.

If you know of any other organizations providing relief support and assistance that can use our donations, please share them in the comments or tag me on any social media platform, my handle for most is @mshalaco.

May God have mercy on the beautiful people of Lebanon, ameen.

Back to Normal? What Normal?

I recently posted the following statement on Instagram and Twitter, “I do not want to go back to normal. I want to go forward to a better, brighter, and peaceful future.”

I have been reflecting a lot these past several weeks on many, many things, from what’s happening around us to my personal well being. How can I do better for not just this world, but also for myself? Do I have faith that these changes will indeed be for the better or is this just another phase?

The world is currently in a crisis, not one started by the COVID pandemic, but indeed exacerbated by it. Although many act like the virus has miraculously disappeared overnight or pushing their localities to “reopen already”, the crisis is still very much upon us. We are still in the first wave of this pandemic and the second, I believe, is not far behind.

Our planet isn’t getting better because people have stayed home. It may have gotten a small break, sure, but it will indeed get worse. As highlighted by a recent USA Today report, environmentalists are worried about the rise of waste in our oceans. Mainly, COVID related wastes such as masks and gloves, both made of materials that are not necessarily biodegradable.

Our country is already anticipating a historical record rise in evictions. So many people right now, especially our essential workers, are unable to pay their rents as perfectly covered by Hasan Minhaj. This is not a problem of rent affordability but how we’ve allowed corporate landlords to take advantage of a difficult situation to make a quick profit. This is not the first time – for those who have forgotten the 2008 recession – nor is COVID the sole reason behind it.

In a matter of weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were killed either by lynching or unnecessary police violence. “My gut told me he did it”? No knock warrant? Choked to death for over 8 minutes? The social contract we’ve been forced to adhere too by so many that haven’t followed through, as best put by Trevor Noah, has been broken. Better yet, it’s always been a flawed design. I think with the recent protests, those that had never experienced police brutality saw first hand what a militarized, systemically racist police force are “allowed” to do to its citizens practicing their first amendment rights.

Poverty, corporate greed, systemic racism, and the environment are long suffered issues, that were never going to survive this pandemic.

I’m not in any way shape or form undermining the human casualties of COVID. I recently lost a cousin who was just a couple years older than me to COVID. Our family can’t go near my grandfather’s long term care facility in New Jersey where he resides. My father has been dealing with isolation issues after having a thriving social life in the community.

This virus is real, and it’s hurting people. It has not gone away and yet I feel everyone is trying to “get back to normal” like the virus, and the issues exacerbated by it, have magically disappeared overnight. This bugs me to my core!

Am I speaking from a place of privilege when I say I don’t want to go “back to normal” like everyone else? Yes, I miss my extended family, friends, people but patience will get us to a better place, not the “normal” that brought upon this pandemic and horrid response to it.

I know I will most likely not be heading back to work in our offices this year, but I’m so grateful to be able to work from home. I will not be traveling this summer as planned but I still have options to do so when the time is right. My hometown of San Francisco is slowly being reopened but I’m very, very cautious while attempting to support local businesses from afar.

I’ve been using this time to read, keeping myself informed, and trying to figure out how I will be better on the other side of all of this. This is the time to build stronger bonds with our families, especially with my nephew. This is the time to learn sometime new, like my mom’s sweet baking recipes. This is the time to figure out what do I want to on the other side of this. And what I want is to be better and brighter.

Nothing will be the same, nor would I expect it to be. If this is not the time to demand change that’ll be beneficial for all as well as self-care and personal growth, when is it?

A Prayer to Start off the Holy Month of Ramadan

May God make our fasts easy, accept our supplications and strengthen our faith… may God heal the ill, protect the most vulnerable and bless all the essential and healthcare workers… may God grant one and all a rewarding and joyous Ramadan… ameen.

A Moment of Reflection

The other day, I went out for a walk after staying home for a good week straight. Upper Great Highway by the Ocean Beach Trail was (and still is) closed to traffic. The skies were a bit gloomy, the air was cold and the waves were hushed. I just stood there in the middle of the road for a moment.

As I’m asthmatic, I’m at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than most. My last major asthma attack was on the night of January 31st. I got tested for the flu and pneumonia, which consisted of an x-ray and a horrid nasal swap. None of which was comfortable, all of which came back negative. I had to go to Urgent Care about a week or so later as my allergy symptoms didn’t elevate since. This took place before I realized that COVID-19 was spreading, fast.

San Francisco and most of the Bay Area have sheltered in place since March 15th but most of my family and co-workers sheltered in place prior to that as a precaution. Life has been different, interesting, amusing, and frustrating. I’ve had to adjust, adapt, postpone and reevaluate my priorities. I’m no parent but I’ve had to help step in and home school my first-grade nephew. It reminded me of why I never continued on the career paths of being a teacher or pediatrician but grateful a million folds for those that are.

As I stood there facing the gloomy skies above the sea, I kept thinking despite it all, this was a reminder of our blessings. We live in a friendly, family-oriented, and supportive community. I’ve been in better touch with family and friends than ever before, just checking in on each other and making sure everyone is OK. I’ve seen neighbors and community members on my walks and even under masks and six feet apart, we see the smiles.

Where our national leadership has failed, our community leaders have risen up to take charge. Our healthcare workers and first responders the world over have been working tirelessly to care for us, even when they themselves need to be cared for. Our grocery stores are stocked, our restaurants are delivering, and even my tiny desk for work was shipped sooner than expected.

The people behind all that goodness remind me of our blessings, much of which we take for granted. They give me hope that we will get through this uncertainty with a bit more faith, gratitude and empathy. The absolute humility that has come out of this pandemic have truly restored my faith in humanity.

And as I stood there in the middle of the road, I saw a small ray of light through the gloomy skies. Seeing it as a good omen, I took out my phone to capture this moment.

I am a firm believer that when God puts us to it, God will pull us through it. So have faith that this too shall pass. Please, if possible, consider volunteering or donating to causes out there supporting our communities, front line and essential angels. Check on your family, friends and neighbors regularly when possible. If you need someone to talk too, know that I’m but a message away. And please, I urge you all to continue to stay home and stay healthy. We will get through this, together!

Be Like Shabana. Be a Beggar for Life

Be Like Shabana. Be a #BeggarForLife.

Yesterday’s funeral services for our sister and friend Shabana Patel was bittersweet. We gathered amongst hundreds from many communities to support her children and honor her life. We hugged, wept, smiled and laughed remembering her warm hugs, tears, smiles and laughter.

Shabana always deemed herself a #BeggarForLife as she constantly raised funds and volunteered for many charitable organizations. Her reach went beyond Sacramento and the Bay Area when many of us learned she helped found the Ihsan Foundation for West Africa. This project supports a school in Sierra Leone and became her passionate mission. We urge you all to help continue her legacy in supporting this amazing foundation for years to come, Insha’Allah.

May she rest in God’s eternal peace and light, may her legacy live beyond our years, ameen. 🤲🏻